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Total Harmony

Bamidbar (Numbers 1:1-4:20 )

by Rabbi Shraga Simmons

Parshat Bamidbar begins with a census of the Jewish people. We might think this "reduces everyone to a number." But actually the census teaches that every Jew is important. The Kabbalists point out that just as 600,000 Jewish souls stood at Mount Sinai, so too there are 600,000 letters in the Torah (including the white spaces between letters). And just as a Torah scroll is invalid if even a single letter is missing, so too the Jewish people need everyone working together.

Yet if every Jew is so important, why does this week's parsha go on to describe the special role for the tribe of Levi? Isn't that discriminatory? Just by virtue of birth, is a Levite inherently "better" than a non-Levite?

In truth, everyone is equally important. Sure, some people are born smarter, and some with more talent in one area or another. But that doesn't make that person any "better."

The key to living in harmony is that everyone fulfills his/her own capability, and is accepting of others as equally valuable.

The story is told of the great sage of Jerusalem, Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach. One evening he asked his congregation to wait to begin prayers until the street sweeper had arrived. Rabbi Auerbach explained: "This man is totally devoted to beautifying the streets of Jerusalem. I only wish that my own work would be performed with such pure intentions!"

So before we look down on another person, let's remember that every human being has an important contribution to make. And in life, the only thing we truly earn is our own good name.

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