You Must Be a Levi Too

June 8, 2016 at 10:36 AM , ,

“…They shall take charge of all the vessels of the Ohel Moed and the charge of B’nei Yisrael, to perform the service of the Mishkan…” – Bamidbar 3:8

וְשָׁמְרוּ אֶת כָּל כְּלֵי אֹהֶל מוֹעֵד וְאֶת מִשְׁמֶרֶת בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל לַעֲבֹד אֶת עֲבֹדַת הַמִּשְׁכָּן – במדבר ג, ח

The Rambam writes that the extraordinary sanctity that G-d conferred upon the tribe of Levi is not exclusive to biological Levi’im alone. Rather, “any individual whose spirit motivates him and whose wisdom guides him to set himself apart and stand before G-d to serve Him and worship Him… behold that person is sanctified…” (Laws of Shemitah and Yovel 13:13)

One might assume, however, that the ability to “be sanctified” to serve G-d, to genuinely devote yourself to carrying out the divine mission of making this entire world a “dwelling place for Him—i.e., the very purpose of Creation—is not for everybody. After all, the Rambam describes the person who can achieve this sanctity as an individual “whose spirit motivates him and whose wisdom guides him.” If I am not yet at that level of inspiration and understanding, who is to say that I can be “sanctified like a Levi” and truly devote myself as a servant of G-d?

You Must Be a Levi Too

The Torah removes this doubt when it describes the duties of the Levi’im: “They shall take charge of all the vessels of the Ohel Moed and the charge of B’nei Yisrael, to perform the service of the Mishkan(Bamidbar 3:8).

One of the principles of the laws of agency is that one cannot commission an agent to act as his legal proxy if the commissioner himself is not legally allowed to perform that task (see Kiddushin 23b). But, the Torah states that the Levites’ responsibility to sing in the Mishkan, and to transport it from place to place when B’nei Yisrael traveled, were in essence “the charge of B’nei Yisrael”—the responsibility of the entire Jewish nation. It is only that “the Levi’im serve in their stead, as their agents,” Rashi explains. Since one can only empower the Levi to act as his proxy if he can potentially do the service himself, evidently every Jew has the innate ability “to stand before G-d to serve Him” (Devarim 10:8).

Accordingly, though the actual service in the Temple has been delegated to the tribe of Levi, the ability to wholly devote oneself to the service of G-d, thereby bringing about the Divine purpose of creation, is still within reach for every single Jew.

—Likutei Sichos, vol. 13, p. 15

 

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