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D’var Torah: Parashat Naso

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The functioning of the community is reliant on every task, no matter how big or small…

Whatever your task is, you are important.

We learn this from the commencement of parashat Nasso. The Torah gives an instruction, “Nasso et rosh b’nei Gershon gam heim” – “take a census of the children of Gershon as well”. Now why the “gam heim” – ‘them as well’? As well as who? As well as what?

We need to view it within its context. You see, Levi had three sons – Gershon, Kehat and Merari. At the end of last week’s parasha of Bamidbar we read how the children of Kehat, the second son, were given the sacred task of transporting the Aron – the Ark of the covenant from place to place. At the beginning of our parashat of Nasso we are told how his older brothers’ children, the children of Gershon, had the responsibility of carrying the curtains and the coverings and the hooks.

For them it must have appeared as if they were the afterthought, they weren’t carrying anything important – they weren’t in the limelight! So Rav Moshe Feinstein teaches us that the sedra opens by saying ‘b’nei Gershon gam heim’ – they too are important! They are just as important as the children of Kehat, who are mentioned first only out of respect to the Aron.

I’d like to add that in fact, our tradition gives even greater prominence to the children of Gershon, because it is with him that the sedra starts. Indeed, we often find that people are far more familiar with the beginning of the sedra than with the middle or the end of it – and so we are giving a tribute to Gershon by commencing the sedra with him, his children and their role.

Within our communities around the world, there are those who have titles, who stand on a platform or a stage and give a speech, there are those who are publicly thanked. But, in addition there are so many wonderful, outstanding people – those who work in the office, those who prepare an event, those who stuff envelopes, those who volunteer.

There is no such thing as a menial task. Every single person’s work is of crucial importance for the functioning of the community and that is actually what makes a community – it’s the contribution of absolutely everybody.

So the ‘Kehats’ of our community, perhaps they have the Kodesh ha’Kodeshim and they stand in the limelight. But the beginning of our parasha teaches us the importance of the ‘Gershons’ of our community: ‘gam heim’ – they are just as important.

Whatever your role is – thank you very much.

Shabbat Shalom