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Parshas Nasso - Traveling Light                           11 Sivan 5779

06/14/19 08:50:52


Airport security is at an all-time high, but at the same time, I wonder… do we feel any safer than we did twenty years ago? On the other hand, with the help of the Almighty, travel to Eretz Yisrael has accompanied all of us with a sense of security and safety for many years. Anyone who travels to Israel knows the security drill they must go through. A person is grilled with a series of multiple questions and at different check points. Part of that drill is being asked if anyone gave you anything to bring and maybe deliver? The reason for this (and sometimes they tell you) is a famous story that took place on Thursday, April 17, 1986, at the Heathrow International Airport in London. El Al security agents thwarted an attempt to blow up an El Al plane in mid-air. The plane, a Boeing 747, was preparing to depart with 395 passengers and crew. This was the story….

The plan was to plant explosives in the belly of the plane; the explosives were to be transported by a duped and innocent passenger entirely unaware of their existence. El Al security agents at the London stop uncovered the explosives and prevented the terror attack. After the discovery of the explosives, local authorities took over and arrested the passenger, later also arresting the man who sent her, a Jordanian Arab named Nizar Hindawi. The passenger, a 32-year-old Irish woman named Anne-Marie Murphy, who was six months pregnant, arrived at the check-in desk some forty minutes before it closed. She was approached and questioned by the deputy security officer as part of routine passenger security checks.

No suspicious signs were revealed during her questioning. The passenger, who gave the impression of being a simple woman, responded in the negative when asked if she had been given anything to bring to Israel. During the questioning she was calm and revealed no sign of nervousness. When checking her baggage, suspicious signs came to light: A Commodore scientific calculator with an electric cable was found; the bag raised suspicion due to its unexpectedly heavy weight. The security officer’s examination of the bag revealed explosives concealed in the bottom of the bag, under a double panel. He called the police, and the passenger was arrested.

For many years I took things for people and always felt a little guilty and uneasy lying to the security agent when asked if anyone gave me anything to take for them. Of course, I, like many others, rationalized that we are the innocent ones and therefore didn’t want to go through the rigamoral of being truthful and having to go through a secondary security check. This charade ended abruptly about fourteen years ago when I was asked to bring back a pair of Tefillin for someone in the community. I had packed the Tefillin in my suitcase rather than take it in my hand-luggage along with my own personal Tefillin. My luggage was flagged and I was asked again if I was given anything to take back with me to the States. Again I answered in the negative. They challenged me and asked about the Tefillin. I was a cooked goose, covered with embarrassment. It was at that defining moment I said, “no more.” I will politely decline when asked to take something that would need to be packed (unlike an envelope of money or a credit card). Today we are limited in the size and weight of our belongings when we travel, at least by airplane. While it is true physical things carry weight, spiritual ones do not. Within nature there is another dimension that things that are spiritual do not necessarily take up space, time and or even weight. This is manifested in the carrying of the Mishkan’s holy objects through the desert by Gershon, Kehas and Merari, the sons of Levi.

In this week’s Parshas Nasso the Torah describes the work of the tribe of Levi. In Bamidbar 4:24 the Torah states: “Zos Avodas Mishpchos HaGershuni, LaAvod UlMasa”. “The Gershomite family shall serve by maintaining and carrying as follows. The Seforno breaks down the words ,and explains the work of maintaining occurred during the camping, while the carrying of the holy vessels took place during the traveling. As an aside, I always look at homonyms in their context. The word Masah spelled with an ‘ayin’ or an ‘aleph’ sound the same but have different meanings. Nonetheless, in this context they are used together to understand what was carried during the traveling.

We must keep in mind that although the order of birth had Gershon as the oldest, Kehas was given the privilege of carrying the most holy items. That was read in last week’s parshas Baidbar. Nasso begins with Gershon first being given the task of carrying the other items followed by Merari. The Shaar Bas Rabim explains the language of ‘masah’ - ‘carrying’ is used when describing the eldest brother Gershon, as well as when describing Merari it states ‘mishmeres masa’am’ – ‘to carry’. Unlike at the end of Bamidbar last week, the Torah just writes, ‘This is the service of the sons of Kehas’ but has no mention of carrying. The Gemara Sotah 35 teaches us that the Aron, the Ark, carried those who carried it. When the Jewish people traversed the Jordan River, the Navi tells us the Ark carried the Kohanim in the air from one side of the Jordan to the other. Even though all the other vessels of the Kodesh HaKadoshim (holy of holies) did not carry the Kohanim who were carrying the items, nevertheless they did carry themselves, and the Kohanim did not need to carry the vessels. Therefore, due to the holiness and importance given to Kehas and family, they did not have to be burdened under the weight of the vessels and therefore the Torah did not write masah’ - ‘to carry’. . However, the other brothers, Gershon and Kehas, carried the other parts of the Mishkan and needed to be counted as they physically carried those items.

Life is full of challenges and we are constantly balancing and juggling things in life such as family, livelihood, and religion. There is no question that while certain things are a burden and weigh us down, we must also realize that other things are not only light but sometimes weightless. Once we commit to the performance of duties to Hashem, we will be uplifted and carried by the effort and accompanying fulfillment. There is no doubt that by working on our spiritual pursuit we will be carried by the mitzva, which will, in turn carry everyone else along with us. Yiddishkeit is the spiritual security that we have within us as we go through life, and we should use it as we travel throughout our lifetime.

Sun, May 24 2020 1 Sivan 5780