Parshat Bamidbar: Taking on Responsibilities

Lexi Kass
Lexi Kass (Photo by Irina Kass)

By Lexi Kass

The Torah portion for this week is Bamidbar. The name Bamidbar means “in the wilderness.” This portion is about the census of the Israelite males from each tribe in preparation for battles to reach the Promised Land, or Israel. It also explains the structured physical arrangements of all of the tribes.

The Levites, however, were not chosen to fight. Instead, they were told to take care of the Tabernacle, which was the place for worship. Within the Levite tribe were the Kohath family, who were especially important to the Tabernacle. When Aaron and his sons finished breaking down the camp and covering important objects, the Kohath were the ones that were chosen to carry the most sacred and holy objects that belonged to the Tabernacle. This was a very dangerous job — if they came in contact with an object without its covering on, they would die. As a commentary in the Etz Hayim says, “Only the Kohathites, who carry the sacred objects, are in mortal danger, not the Gershonites or the Merarites.” Another commentary in the Etz Hayim says that even viewing the exposed objects in the sanctuary could be fatal. The risk that the Kohath took for their job really displays how the Kohath were brave and willing to do anything to serve God and to get to Israel.

The theme of responsibility is very prominent in this portion because of how crucial the Kohath family was to the journey to the Promised Land. Without them, the Israelites wouldn’t have had any place to pray or connect to God. It is important to realize that this role that the Kohath committed to was very dangerous and hard, but also very important. Sometimes the most important things to do are also the hardest.

Just like the Kohath had many responsibilities, there is a lot of responsibility when becoming a bat mitzvah. I am becoming a more active member of the Jewish community. My responsibilities as a Jew include religious responsibilities, but they can also mean caring, being fair or helping others. As I step into the next chapter of my life, I always want to stay cognizant of my surroundings by helping others around me and taking responsibility for myself, like acknowledging my mistakes and owning up to my decisions. As I become an adult, I would like to be an active participant in my Jewish community by helping others when they need it, donating clothes or food to charity and volunteering in soup kitchens. I can also help my family and friends by making a meal or a special gift when they are sick or need something to cheer them up. These things take time and effort, and those are the qualities I would like to continue to develop as I grow up. As we go through life, we should understand the importance of reflecting on and fulfilling our responsibilities, even when doing so is difficult. That is a message we learn from what the Kohath did for the Israelites.

Lexi Kass is a seventh grader at Krieger Schechter Day School.

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