This post is dedicated in memory of Shlomo ben Aryeh Zalman. May it be an aliyah for his neshama.By Shoshana Rosa
In this week's Parshat Naso, we are introduced to several topics. I will metion a few: there's a description of Levi's sons' jobs in the mishkan (tabernacle), there's the procedure of the eishat sotah (adulterous wife) and details regarding the level of sanctity that must be kept in Israel's camps so that Hashem's (G-d's) Divine Presence can rest among them.
One of the things I'd like to point out is a discrepancy between this week's and last week's parshat Bamidbar. In Pashat Bamidbar (and continuing into Naso), Levi's sons get introduced in descending order of age: Gershon, Kehus and Merari. However, when their names are introduced a second time, the order changes, "Take the sum of the sons of Kehus from among the sons of Levi..." (4:2). "Take a census of the sons of Gershon..." (Numbers 4:22), "[As for] the sons of Merari, you [Moshe] shall count them by their families..." (Numbers 4:29).
The obvious reason for the alternation of the order was because each branch's job was listed according to the logical order of the taking down and building up of the mishkan, an activity which was necessary for the [temporarily] nomadic nation. Kehus's family saw to the holy vessels that were designated for specific purposes: the ark, table, menorah, the altars etc. The sons of Gershon were second in line because their job involved the taking down, setting up and/or carrying of the mishkan's tent, cover, screen and hangings. Last, the sons of Merari tended to the skeleton of the Mishkan: its planks, bars, pillars and sockets. Every time Bnei Yisrael (the Jews) were told to set up camp or hit the road, the sons of Kehus were called in to remove the holy vessels from the mishkan and cover everything. This is because the vessels, sometimes referred to as the organs of the mishkan, were considered the most important part of the priestly service and therefore, in need of a packing process that was befitting them. (If you're curious, an interesting question might be, "Why does Kehus get precedence in the service instead of his elder brother?" If you have any answers let me know.)
A closer reading of the parshah shows a parallel between the human body and the order of functions the Torah gave Levi's sons. For instance, Kehus's job involved taking special care of the mishkan's "organs," vessels which represented the heart, brain and liver, the seats of a person's emotions, intellectual capabilities and gut sense. Afterward, Gershon and Merari's jobs were representative of seeing to the various needs of one's body.
Why is it that Kehus had to do his job before Gershon and Merari? It's an interesting point to ponder when one considers Maslow's hierarchy of needs. In order to self actualize a person needs to seek out a safe environment, create a social setting etc. Perhaps the Torah is telling us that in order to thrive as a servant of Hashem (G-d) s/he must, first and foremost, give forethought and priority to one's emotional and spiritual needs. Whatever bodily functions must be taken care of -- and of course they must be seen to -- one must never forget the emphasis that must be placed on the things which are hidden from the human eye. Only once one has administered to the inner workings of his mind and heart can one safely lead himself in the direction that best matches his standards.