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PARSHAT NASO 5784: THE CONNECTION BETWEEN KEHAT AND GERSHOM

בס”ד

Introduction

Numbers 4:21-22


The L-rd spoke to Moses saying:
 וַיְדַבֵּ֥ר ד’ אֶל־משֶׁ֥ה לֵּאמֹֽר

They shall not come in to see when the holy [vessels] are being wrapped up, lest they die.
 וְלֹֽא־יָבֹ֧אוּ לִרְא֛וֹת כְּבַלַּ֥ע אֶת־הַקֹּ֖דֶשׁ וָמֵֽתוּ

The parasha begins with “va” – “and” – with which G-d spoke to Moses. This seemingly simple conjunction links the current parasha to the previous one, Bemidbar, indicating a continuity of thought and action. It is a reminder that the Torah is an ongoing narrative, where each part is intrinsically connected to what precedes and follows it. Understanding these connections can provide relevant lessons even for Noahides.

The Roles of Kehat and Gershom

In Bemidbar, it spoke about the Levite family of Kehat, whose name is derived from the verb “gathering” or “collection” (yikah). Kehat had the task of carrying the furnishings of the Tabernacle. The “va” makes the connection to the tribe of Gershom, which is derived from the verb “to banish” (le-garesh), who had the task of carrying the coverings of the Tabernacle.

Relevance for Noahides

The tasks of the families of Kehat and Gershom, specific to the physical construction of the Tabernacle, might seem to have no relevance after the 40 years that the Israelites journed with the Tabernacle in the wildnerness. However, from a chasidic insight found in the Kehot Chumash, we can certainly learn an important and universally applicable lesson from this.

Protecting the Tabernacle and Ourselves

Once concept for the coverings of the Tabernacle is that they would protected it from storms, rain, wind, and other natural elements that could damage the Tabernacle from the outside, if any such thing would occur. These coverings would serve as a shield, ensuring that the sanctity and integrity of the Tabernacle remained intact despite the harsh conditions it might face. It was the task of the Gershom Levites to manage these coverings, which included the purpose to banish the bad influences and harmful elements that could cause physical damage to this holy structure.

Naively, we might say, yes, that is logical under normal circumstances. But in the case of the Tabernacle in the wilderness, the Israelite camp was protected from heat and any bad weather by the Clouds of Glory that surrounded it from all sides, and above and below. So why were the Israelites commanded to engage in all of the difficult and intricate tasks of constructing the three layers of coverings for the Tabernacle, when it was apparently not needed for that purpose?

In fact, close to the very end of all the 40 years in the desert, a brief time occurred when the Tablernacle was unexpectedy left exposed. When Aaron died, the Clouds of Glory suddenly disappeared, and it was thereby revealed that they had been provided in his merit. (See Rashi on Numbers 21:1.) When Moses prayed for the Clouds of Glory to be returned, they were, in his merit. But in the brief meantime, the coverings of the Tabernacle were there to serve not only their deep spiritual and kabbalistic purposes, but also their very practical purpose as well.

A lesson for all generations is that no matter how well you think that you have succeeded in your spiritual achievements, you should never assume that your achievements will always be protecting you and your family (especially your children, represented by the figures of two angels with faces of children on top of the Holy Ark) from negative outside influences. In our lives, we encounter various external influences that can negatively impact our spiritual and moral well-being. Just as the responsibility of the Gershom Levites was to ensure that the Tabernacle remained protected from physical harm, it is our task as Noahides to safeguard ourselves from harmful influences that can damage us spiritually and morally. This includes negative behaviors, harmful environments, and any external factors that can lead us away from righteous and ethical living.

To banish these bad influences effectively, we must be vigilant and proactive in our approach. We can use Rabbi Nachman’s teaching about the four gates of our body for that.

Guarding the Four Gates of the Body

Rabbi Nachman teaches that it is important to guard the four gates of your body: your mouth, your nose, your eyes, and your ears.

– Mouth: You must guard your mouth against speaking words of falsehood or anything else that falls short of Torah-based morality.

– Nose: In Hebrew, the word for “nose” is also a word for “anger.” You must develop your fear of Heaven in order to “improve your nostrils,” which can mean learning to control your anger over injustices that others may do to you. Do not get angry when people insult you; remain humble and patient. This does not apply to the injustices done to others; there you must respond.

– Ears: Your ears will be full of Torah-based morality when you believe in the Sages and listen to their words.

– Eyes: You must close your eyes and shut out anything that is not proper for you to see. [1]

When we guard these gates, we will guard our own spirituality, making us better able to help make the world a better place.

Discovering the Truth of the Torah

When people sincerely open their ears and listen to the words of the Sages, many will discover the truth of the Torah. This is something we also see happening today when Christians, for example, listen to Rabbis like Tovia Singer or Michael Skobac. They discover that their words about the Tanach are true and that much of what is taught in the church is based on lies, misquoted texts from the Tanach, or even fabricated texts and prophecies.

Gershom and Kehat: A Sequence for Spiritual Growt

Gershom was born before Kehat, which teaches us that we must first rid ourselves of evil and negative behavior. Then we focus on the good. After we have swept our house clean, we will furnish it with beautiful objects such as morally and ethically Torah-based behavior, charity, prayer and blessings for the good that Hashem gives us, and Torah study. All of this should be preceded by knowledge of the seven Noahide Laws and how we can build and maintain a personal relationship with Hashem.

Conclusion

Now you might wonder why Kehat is mentioned before Gershom in the Tanach. Our lives must be about spiritual growth and developing our good qualities. It is logical that we must first unlearn old habits and ideas, but the ultimate goal is the most important.

By Angelique Sijbolts

Sources:

kehot Chumash parasha Naso
[1] https://www.breslov.org/dvar/pdf/Advice.PDF

Text Sefaria.org

With thanks to Dr. Michael Schulman for his imput and feedback

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