by Rabbi Nussbaum
VOLUME 96 NUMBER 6
June 26, 2020
Tamuz 4, 5780
Candlelighting Time 9:35 PM
The tribe of Levi replaced the people in their service in the Beis Hamikdash. The nation forfeited their position due to their participation in the golden calf scandal. Therefore, they were awarded a tenth of the produce as payment for their service. The Talmud states that we do not receive reward for doing mitzvos in this world. It would seem that the tithe that the Levi’im received was essentially an award for their performance of a mitzvah. This apparently contradicts the Talmudic dictum!
We are taught in Pirkei Avos that upon performing a mitzvah this will lead to another mitzvah because the reward for a mitzvah is doing another one. Apparently the true recompence for doing a mitzvah is on a spiritual level. Hashem elevates us through observing the mitzvos and we become closer to him. However, this actually contradicts that which we say daily in Shema that if one observes the Torah then Hashem will grant him an abundance of produce and all that he needs. Apparently, we receive physical benefits from performing mitzvos! How can we reconcile these two inconsistent themes?
Rav Dessler in his seminal work ‘Strive for Truth’ cites Maimonides statement from his laws pertaining to repentance. There he writes that Hashem has guaranteed us that if we fulfill the Torah with joy and excitement, as is appropriate, then He will eliminate all barriers that could prevent us from observing the Torah. We will not experience disease, wars, famine or the like and, on the contrary, we will have all of our physical requirements met. Furthermore, financial support will not be lacking, and we will have an environment conducive to study Torah without interruption and serve Hashem in complete serenity and harmony. Clearly, the entire landscape of physical comforts and pleasure are only present in this world as a tool to allow us the opportunity live successfully within the framework of the Torah.
Perhaps this is the intent of the Torah stating that the Levi’im receive their tithe as a ‘reward’ for their service in the Beis Hamikdash. They were dedicated to their mission and therefore they did not have the opportunity to provide for their needs. They did not have the ability to support themselves, therefore the nation was given that responsibility. However, the Torah not only places the onus of their livelihood upon the nation but justifies this because the Levi’im substituted for the nation in their service in the Beis Hamikdash. Initially, the first born were destined to serve, representing each and every family in the nation, but they were penalized due to their involvement in the golden calf. In order to maintain that everyone was represented in the service that took place in the Beis Hamikdash, everyone tithed their crops and gave a tenth to the Levi’im.
The upshot of this is that we shouldn’t view the service which took place in the Beis Hamikdash as something that we don’t have an intimate relationship with. On the contrary, it was a combined effort between the nation and the Levi’im that created the ambience for the Divine presence to settle in the Mishkan and later the Beis Hamikdash. Therefore, we may assume the following is true nowadays as well. The sanctity that we treasure in our respective shuls and houses of study is not solely caused by those who merit to daven and study there as well. Additionally, all those who support their ongoing functioning and providing for those who frequent these places to daven and study are important and vital to their mission as well!
A BYTE FOR SHABBOS
Any dispute which is not for the sake of Heaven will be short lived. Controversy is a function of severe judgement of others or of an issue. Therefore, without proper reason is cannot be sustained. S’FAS EMES