Parshat Naso (Numbers 4:21-7:89) lists work assignments for the Levite families. In great detail.
If we are reading the Torah to learn about history, it’s easy to learn from Naso. As the Israelites traveled through the wilderness, setting up camp 42 times, they always set the mishkan (sanctuary tent) up at the center of their camp. How was the mishkan carried from place to place? Levite men, age 30 to 50, took it apart, carried the pieces, and set it up again.
But if we are reading the Torah for lessons about spirituality, how should we approach this section?
Naso reminds us that human spiritual life exists in time and space. If we want a place to pray, someone has to maintain it. And sometimes we metaphorically call the caretakers “Levites.”
Naso opens a door into practical spirituality. The spirituality of scheduling. Of delegating. Of managing volunteers. In today’s North American economy, you can hire spiritual advisors to help with any of them. They, too are Levites — a word which literally means “those who accompany.”
Naso invites Hasidic style interpretation, where the external mishkan becomes a metaphor for the internal mishkan. Life’s journeys push us towards inner change. To change consciously, we need the inner Levite families named in Naso. The Gershonim, who geresh (banish) the old baggage. The Merari, who marar (weep bitterly), allowing us to grieve the old. The Kehati, who are kaha, blunt. Because if we are too discerning, we will never open to new experience.
Spirituality is everywhere in the Torah. To create us, God formed a body from clay and breathed into it a living spirit (Genesis 2). Spirit is motion, thought, feeling, change. It weaves through everything we do.
Can’t see it in a section of Torah? Look harder.