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Friday, May 30, 2008

The Far Side...

…realizes that it has been punking out lately when it comes to this weekly posting. It realizes that anybody can go find a thought or article from some famed individual and put it up or, to be even lazier, simply link to it. It understands that this was really supposed to be something a little bit different, something that it may not always be typing up to. In this vane it apologizes and will try to return to the original, if irreverent, style that was the original objective.
//Howevah(!), it would also like it to be known that Sefer Vayikra does not exactly contain some of the easiest stuff to borrow from when it comes to a novice such as myself.
Finally, it is making a solemn vow that from this time forward it will never again type in the second person (it is using the second person, right?).//
יז וַיְדַבֵּר יְהוָה, אֶל-מֹשֶׁה וְאֶל-אַהֲרֹן לֵאמֹר.יח אַל-תַּכְרִיתוּ, אֶת-שֵׁבֶט מִשְׁפְּחֹת הַקְּהָתִי, מִתּוֹךְ, הַלְוִיִּם.יט וְזֹאת עֲשׂוּ לָהֶם, וְחָיוּ וְלֹא יָמֻתוּ, בְּגִשְׁתָּם, אֶת-קֹדֶשׁ הַקֳּדָשִׁים: אַהֲרֹן וּבָנָיו, יָבֹאוּ, וְשָׂמוּ אוֹתָם אִישׁ אִישׁ עַל-עֲבֹדָתוֹ, וְאֶל-מַשָּׂאוֹ.

(chapter 4)
17 And the LORD spoke unto Moses and unto Aaron, saying:18 'Cut ye not off the tribe of the families of the Kohathites from among the Levites;19 but thus do unto them, that they may live, and not die, when they approach unto the most holy things: Aaron and his sons shall go in, and appoint them every one to his service and to his burden;
The above pesukim warn Moshe & Aaron, and by extension Klal Yisroel for all time, that they should not allow the families of Kehath to be wiped out.

Oooookay, and why exactly should we be concerned that such a fate should befall this particular family? Also, what is so important about them that we should take extra special care to ensure their survival? Surely we should try and prevent any family line from within Bnei Yisroel from being wiped out.
I for one would shudder to think what the future of our great people would look like if certain families, who for reasons unknown are not specified in the Torah, would become lost from our illustrious family tree. What, for instance, would we do if the branch inscribed with the name of Goldish was to be broken off? To even bring myself to imagine such a time is to risk a state of melancholy not know to this world since a young man with a toothy grin and an orange 7 on his back reached into the collective chests of the inhabitants of a city on the shores of Lake Erie, ripped away their still beating hearts, held them aloft to some unknown deity to whom he had traded his soul for success in this world...

I digress, back to the Kehathites…the family of Kehath had the distinctive job of carrying the kelim (vessels) of the Mishkan (Tabernacle) which included such items as the Shulchan (table) , Menorah and Aron (the Ark) (…dun, du-dun, dun, dun, du-dun…dun, du-dun, dun, dun, du-dun, dun, dun…dun, du-DUN, dun, du-DUN, dun, du-DUN, DUN, DUN!…So, Dr. Jones, we meet again...be careful not to look directly at the Ark of The Covenant—it’ll melt your face off).

Shoot, I did it again, once again I digress…the Bnei Kehath were aware that there was great merit in carrying the kelim of the Mishkan. However, arguments arose over who would carry the Aron HaKodesh, for there was supreme merit in “carrying” the Aron (nobody really carried the Aron, we are taught that it more carried itself and people merely walk beneath the poles as a show of respect and that so to speak the Ark carried them...so , in a way...wait for it, wait for it... they were the original Riders of the Lost Ark...get it...oh come on, that's damn funny!...okay, maybe not).

There is a medrash that relates how it became very unseemly amongst the Kehathites, there was so much infighting, to the point that it lead to kalos rosh (an unseriousness of mind) while performing their avodah. Due to being in this state while in such close contact with items of such a holy nature, people began dying on the job – one cannot act in such a manner before the Aron.
In response to this state of affairs Aaron and his sons have to come and intercede, to set up some type of system, of who will carry what and when, to eliminate the fighting. They had to do this to ensure, quite bluntly, that everybody did not end up dead.

So now we know why we needed to worry (say that ten x’s fast) about the families of Kehath, why they were predisposed to being wiped out. And yet, it goes a little farther (further?) than that.

There is a greater idea in play here, one that is detailed quite clearly in Mesilas Yesharim (Path of the Just), chapter 20.
[That’s right. I went there, Mesilas Yesharim baby! Bet nobody ever thought they would see a mussar sefer trotted out in this spot. Well, don’t get too excited...I’m cherry picking a particular part that may not exactly be the favorite of the people at large in today’s religious climate.]
The title of that chapter is במשקל החסידות or Concerning the Weighing of Saintliness. It talks about weighing your chasidus (piety/saintliness), and making sure that you do not commit aveiros (sins) in your zeal to perform mitzvohs (commandments/good deeds). I highly recommend taking a few minutes to read through it, the whole thing is a handful of paragraphs.
We see, then, that one who would be a true Saint must weigh all of his deeds in relation to their results and in relation to all of the circumstances surrounding their performance - time, social environment, situation and place. And if he finds that not doing will go farther towards sanctifying the Name of Heaven and giving pleasure to God than doing, he must refrain from doing. Or, if one action appears good, but is bad in its results or in its complements, and another appears bad, but is good in its results, he must decide on the basis of the conclusion and the result, the true fruit of the action. This decision is left to an understanding heart and an honest intelligence, for, in view of their innumerability, it is impossible to consider particular instances. "God gives wisdom; from His mouth stems knowledge and understanding" (Proverbs 2:6).

An example of this behavior is the actions of the families of Kehath. So as we asked above: Why is it so important that they not act in this manner, why are they perhaps more important than other families within Klal Yisroel?
They are Leviim!…Kohanim! There is a responsibility that comes along with that. Even more, Kehath specifically carries the most prized of our possessions. Outside of the Kohen Gadol, who comes in closer contact with Shechinah than them?!
Yes, they-are-special! They must be preserved, must be made to act in the correct manner, in order to set an example for the rest of Bnei Yisroel. To teach the nation that there is more than simply WHAT you do…there is HOW you do it.

That if one thinks that they can lead a life of doing either one correctly without the other…well…the outcome can be deadly.

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