| Parshah |

Out of Context

Every person should do his share — even when he doesn’t understand it


“And Moshe and Aharon and the entire congregation of Bnei Yisrael did to the Leviim like all that Hashem commanded Moshe [about]the Leviim....” (Bamidbar 8:20)


Rashi says this is praise for Klal Yisrael that everyone participated in the process of sanctifying the Leviim.

Rav Chaim Zeitchik says, “Whenever I get to this pasuk and to Rashi’s explanation, I’m stumped once again in my understanding of Rashi. Why is it praiseworthy to do exactly what Hashem said?” Isn’t that what’s expected of us? (Rav Shalom Meir Wallach, Maayan Hashavua)

Several years ago while in the States, I spent a morning visiting an old school friend who was recuperating in a rehab facility after complicated back surgery.

We spent some time catching up, and then she wistfully asked, “Would you mind if I davened Shacharis while you’re here? When I’m by myself, as soon as I start Shemoneh Esreh, a nurse comes in and I have no way of communicating with her to come back later.”

I was happy to help her daven undisturbed.

It’s very hard to understand the entire process of sanctifying the Leviim. Every Levi bent his head before every Jew and every Jew put his hands on the Levi. Then the Levi would go on to the next in line. Finally, Aharon did tenufah — he waved each Levi.

Obviously, each step of the process has deep meaning that we cannot comprehend, just as we don’t understand what shaking the lulav accomplishes and which worlds are awoken by blowing the shofar. Doing the mitzvos is like pushing a switch that awakens and effects deep results. But these results may be hidden from us.

If so, what are we meant to learn from this topic? Why did the Torah explain the whole procedure in detail if we cannot really comprehend it?

Sure enough, a moment after Chana started Shemoneh Esreh, a nurse popped into the room.

“Hi. I’m Lydia, your nurse for today,” she chirped. “It’s time to take your meds.”

I nodded toward the bed, where Chana had her eyes closed deep in concentration. “Um, she’s praying right now. Would you mind coming back in 15 minutes?”

“Praying?” Lydia’s eyebrows shot up. “Oh, don’t mind me, no, ma’am! I won’t bother her at all,” she stage-whispered.

Then, to my surprise, she dropped to the floor on her hands and knees and crawled over to Chana’s bedside table.

“I’ll just put these right here,” she said, gesturing to the pills. “I’m not going to bother her praying at all.” And then, still on all fours, she backed out of the room.

The Torah is teaching us a critical lesson for our lives, which we can learn from the praise given to Klal Yisrael.

Imagine: 22,000 Leviim pass by in a long line, before 600,000 men of Bnei Yisrael, and not one man was absent. Every single person participated, despite the fact that they didn’t completely understand the purpose of their actions! That’s the lesson we can take from here.

The Zohar says that if there were one complete chaburah, one complete group of people who acted correctly, the Redemption would come. Therefore, every person should do his share — even when he doesn’t understand it. That will bring the Geulah.

I had a hard time holding back my giggles until Chana finished davening.

“Did I just see what I thought I saw?” she asked. “Did my nurse just crawl out of my room?”

“I guess she thought she was out of the prayer radar range.”

“That tops the cake. All the staff is very respectful, but they have no clue what makes us tick. I’ve had a nurse apologize for touching my netilas yadayim cup. She thought she made it unkosher.”

“But really,” I stopped to think for a minute, “why should that make any less sense to her than not touching your dinner? And if she saw me davening, bowing and dipping, standing near a wall, wouldn’t that be just as odd as crawling on the floor?”

And we were off onto one of our philosophical deliberations that had characterized so much of our friendship. What defined logic? Was it objective or subjective?

Yet even as we enjoyed the dynamics of a good discussion, I sensed a different tone to our debate than that of our high school years. We still enjoyed the semantics and hypothetical scenarios. But with maturity, we understood how much we didn’t understand. Context is only created Above.

(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 696)

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