Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

18 Sivan 5762 - May 29, 2002 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Shema Yisrael Torah Network

Opinion & Comment
We Can All be Leviim

Chosen as a group because of their dedication to Hashem, the Leviim were purified through special procedures detailed in parshas Beha'alosecho. The result of this was a special status whose essence is summarized in the succinct statement by Hashem: Vehoyu li haLeviim -- The Leviim are Mine (Bamidbar 8,14).

In the Torah, the content of the special role of the Leviim might appear somewhat technical, being described in terms of their assistance to the Cohanim in the service in the Ohel Moed and the specific responsibilities of the Leviim, that is, being like an honor guard around the holy areas and singing in the regular services.

However in a famous passage, the Rambam explains the full meaning of their role. At the end of Hilchos Shmittah Veyovel (13,12-13) the Rambam writes: "Why did the Levi not get [a portion] in the inheritance of Eretz Yisroel and in the [war] spoils? Because he was separated to serve Hashem, in service [in the Beis Hamikdash] and to teach His upright ways and holy laws to the masses as it says, `They will teach Your laws to Yaakov and Your Torah to Yisroel' (Devorim 33,10). Therefore they were distanced from the normal ways of the world . . . and they do not earn for themselves with their physical strength. Rather they are the legion of Hashem, as it says, `Hashem will bless His legion' (Ibid. 33,11) and He, blessed is He, earns for them."

That is for Levi, but a life of dedication to Hashem is not the exclusive, inherited portion of Levi, but rather it is accessible to all. In a passage that throws out a tempting challenge to all, the Rambam continues: "And not just the tribe of Levi, but each and every person, from among anyone in the world, whose spirit has moved him and whose understanding has led him to stand before Hashem and to serve and worship Him, to know Him, and who will go straight like Hashem made him and cast off of his neck the yoke of the multitude of calculations that most men seek, such a one is sanctified to the highest degree, holy of holies, and Hashem will be his portion and inheritance forever and will provide him in this world with enough to satisfy him, as He did for the Cohanim and Leviim . . . "

Though this is not obligatory on anyone except the Cohanim and Leviim, everyone understands that this degree of dedication represents the highest aspiration of every Jew who has any connection to Torah. Even though there is no commandment from Hashem to require such a high degree of dedication, nonetheless the powerful attraction that the ideal of "standing before Hashem" holds makes it something that almost everyone in yeshiva considers at one point and some try to live, to the extent that they are able to fulfill its demanding conditions.

As we look around at the world (as little as we can get away with) and see what it is like, with the tremendous breakdown in respect for human life as shown in government-sanctioned assisted suicide, abortion, mass murder and suicide bombings, it seems that the contrast to the Torah ideal could not be starker and sharper, and we give thanks that He chose us from all the nations and gave us His Torah.

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