“The Lord spoke to Moses saying: Only the tribe of Levi you shall not number, and you shall not reckon their sum among the children of Israel. But you shall appoint the Levites over the Tabernacle of the Testimony, over all its vessels and over all that belong to it; they shall carry the Tabernacle and they shall minister to it, and they shall encamp around the Tabernacle. When the Tabernacle is set to travel, the Levites shall dismantle it; and when the Tabernacle camps, the Levites shall erect it; any outsider [non-Levite] who approaches shall be put to death.” (Bamidbar 1:48-51)
Every tribe, every Jew, every man, woman, and child, is important in the eyes of God. We each have a unique mission and destiny. We each have different roles and responsibilities. The Tribe of Levi was chosen by God to serve in the Mishkan (and later in the Beis Mikdash) and dedicate their lives to the service of God and the Jewish people. During the 40-year sojourn in the desert, the Tribe of Levi had an additional role, to carry the Mishkan from location to location. The Baal Shem Tov comments that when the Torah describes the role of the Leviim it says, “U’vinsoa ha’mishkan yoridu oso (When you travel, they shall dismantle it).” The primary role of Levi was to show the people how to take down and deconstruct. Throughout life we spend time and energy building a life edifice and framework. Then, one day, we look at it and realize that it is not as it should be. I am not living the way I need to be living. I am not the kind of person I know I can and should be. But I have invested so much time and resources into “building” this life. I am too scared and unsure to knock it down and start again. Sometimes, “When the Tabernacle is set to travel,” when you know you need to make changes and start living the life you should be living, “the Levites shall dismantle it,” you must find the courage to knock down what you have built and start again.
King Solomon writes: “There is a time for all things…A time to give birth and a time to die; a time to plant and a time to uproot that which is planted.” (Koheles 3:2) The wise King Solomon does not say, “there is a time to plant and a time to harvest.” Instead, he tells us that there is a time to “uproot.” There are times in life when we must uproot what we have planted because it is no longer the right fit. It may have seemed appropriate when it was first planted and the endeavor began, but we change, the world changes, and sometimes the very things which once were acceptable and good, must be deconstructed and uprooted.
It is then after we dismantle, like the tribe of Levi, we must also rebuild. Rav Avraham Yitzchak HaKohen Kook zt’l wrote:
“יש עבודת ה’ מיוחדת, לקחת דברים מפורקים ולבנות אותם. כל דבר מפורק בהתחלה היה שלם. נעים לראות דבר שלם, אבל יש עבודה מיוחדת לקחת את המפורק ולהחזירו לשלמותו.”
There is a special form of Avodas Hashem (service of God), to take things which are in pieces and make them whole. Everything which is broken was initially whole. It is beautiful to see something which is complete and whole, but there is a unique privilege in taking that which is in pieces and returning it to completion.
We are just a few days away from the Yom Tov of Shavuos, the day on which we celebrate the great miracle of Sinaitic revelation. But we are not merely observing a historical event. Shavuos offers us the opportunity to reaccept and reaffirm our commitment to our Torah. Shavuos offers us the opportunity to start again. If we are broken, Shavuos gives us the strength to rebuild. If we are blemished, Shavuos gives us the chance the heal. If we need to make changes, Shavuos gives us the strength to start changing. But starting again, healing and changing are exceptionally difficult because often they require us to knock down certain life structures.
At times, the life or personality I have built does not provide the proper framework for who I really want to be. There are things in my life that I must deconstruct, emotional or personalistic structures, I must raze because they are getting in the way of growth. Let us find the strength of Levi to take down the personalistic Mishkan of today in order to build the beautiful Mishkan of tomorrow.