A Display of Love
Yael Eckstein | July 24, 2023
He gave two carts and four oxen to the Gershonites, as their work required and he gave four carts and eight oxen to the Merarites, as their work required. They were all under the direction of Ithamar son of Aaron, the priest. But Moses did not give any to the Kohathites, because they were to carry on their shoulders the holy things, for which they were responsible. — Numbers 7:7-9
These devotions explore the Jewish perspective of love. In Hebrew, the word for love is ahava, which comes from the root word, hav, “to give.” In Judaism, to love is to give. Giving to others enables us to love one another.
There is a busy woman with a challenging life who often joins us for Sabbath meals. I’ve told her many times not to bring anything, but she always shows up with a homemade cake. Once, I even told her that she could always pick something up from the bakery, but she would not hear it. As much as I don’t feel it’s necessary, I understand that she shows her love and appreciation by putting in that extra work.
In today’s reading, we learn that Moses provided oxen and wagons for two out of the three Levite families charged with transporting the Tabernacle in the desert. The Gershonites and Merarites carried the curtains and support beams with the help of animals and vehicles, but the family of Kohath had to carry the holy vessels on their backs.
Why the discrepancy?
A Display of Love
Hundreds of years earlier, Joseph sent for his family to join him in Egypt: “Take some carts from Egypt for your children and your wives, and get your father and come” (Genesis 45:19). The Jewish sages explain that the rest of the family traveled by wagon, but Jacob was carried on the shoulders of his sons in an honorable manner. Similarly, in Jewish tradition, when a loved one departs, each person takes a turn doing the hard, physical labor of shoveling the dirt onto the coffin as a final act of love and respect.
Our sweat and labor are a sign of love. The Kohathites carried the holiest objects on their backs as a display of love and honor to God. These examples remind us to serve God in a hands-on way. While it’s generous to write a check to a charitable organization, we give to those in need in a different way when we volunteer our time and energy.
When we physically labor for God, we display our dedication and love to Him.
Think of a hands-on way you can serve God or give to others.