In the Diaspora (the countries outside Israel where Jews live) most congregations read Parasha Naso this week. In Israel and some Diaspora congregations that celebrated only one day of Shavuot, they read Parasha Naso last week, and will read Parasha Behalotecha this week. In four weeks, we who read Naso this week will read two parashot, Chukas and Balak, and the following week all congregations throughout the world will read Parasha Pinchas.
Parasha Naso begins this week with the continuation of the counting of the Tribe of Levi, which has three families – Kohath, Gershon and Merari. In the prior parasha, the family of Kohath was counted. They had the honor of carrying the Holy Ark during our travels in the Wilderness.
In this week’s parasha, the other Levite families are counted. The second sentence of the parasha is God’s instruction to Moses, “Take a census of the sons of Gershon, as well, according to their fathers’ household, according to their families.” The men of Gershon carried the covering of the MIshkan (Tabernacle) and the screen and hangings that surrounded the Mishkan.
The great Rabbi Moshe Feinstein (1895-1986) explained the words “as well” ties this count of the Gershonites to the prior count of the Kohathites. This means the work of the Gershonites in carrying the skins and fabrics which covered and surrounded the Mishkan is just as important as the work of the Kohathites in carrying the Ark. Every task related to moving the Mishkan was equally important.
In the same way, the role of each of us in living lives of Torah is important. Even if I am not a Torah scholar, my studies are important because they increase the knowledge of Torah. My modest contributions to my synagogue are still important, even though they are smaller than the gifts of other people. Though I cannot spend an entire day helping with a community service project, without my efforts it will not be completed even with the work of people who put in several days.
During the last week, we have seen the outpouring of sadness at the tragic death of George Floyd and the concerns it raises about how people are not treated equally. You may wonder how you can help. Talk to your parents, rabbis, teachers and community leaders about how to insure everyone is treated with dignity and respect. With their help, find something you can do.
Don’t think your contribution will be too small to make a difference. The Talmudic sage Rabbi Tarfon said, “You are not required to complete the task, but you may not withdraw from it.” Pirke Avot (Ethics of the Fathers) 2:21.
Or, as we promise in the Scout Oath, “to do my best”.