The Most Important Role

Yael Eckstein  |  June 24, 2020

Yael at Rosh Hashanah food distribution celebrating three virtues
Yael Eckstein, purple head scarf, hand on shoulder of Ethiopian woman waiting in line outside

Moses also said to Korah, “Now listen, you Levites! Isn’t it enough for you that the God of Israel has separated you from the rest of the Israelite community and brought you near himself to do the work at the LORD’s tabernacle and to stand before the community and minister to them?” — Numbers 16:8-9

Each week in synagogue, Jews read through the Torah from Genesis to Deuteronomy. The Torah portion for this week is Korach, which means “Korah,” from Numbers 16:1–18:32.

The year after I graduated from high school, I spent the most important year of my life studying in Jerusalem. Some of the lessons I learned during my time there made a lasting impression. As I read this particular portion of the Torah, I am reminded of one of those lessons from a Jerusalem rabbi, which really puts this story about Korah and his rebellion into perspective.

The rabbi recalled being a little boy when the first men set foot on the moon. He was watching the television broadcast with his older brother, and like most of the world, they both sat glued to the television in awe of the astronauts. The rabbi remembered saying to his brother, “I feel bad for the guy who just has to orbit around the moon while the other astronauts got to walk on the moon! He was so close to the moon, and yet he couldn’t walk on the moon.”

He recalls his older brother’s wisely reply: “I’m sure he’s fine. He knows that without him, the other astronauts have no way of getting home. He knows how important his role is, and so I’m sure he isn’t jealous of the other guys.”

Korah was a Levite from the family of Kohath who assumed one of the most spectacular roles amongst the people. They were given the great task of carrying the holy vessels of the Temple whenever the Israelites travelled. They personally carried the Holy Ark, the Menorah, and other holy items. What a privilege! Yet, that privilege had a boundary. While those Levites would carry the holiest items in the world, they were forbidden to look at them.

This was the root of Korah’s unhappiness. He was so close — yet so far; so important — yet below the priests who could see and do things that were forbidden to him. Korah was jealous. For all that he had, he could only focus on what he was lacking.

Just like the astronaut circling around the moon while the other astronauts walked on the moon, we have to know that our God-given role is so important that we couldn’t possibly be jealous of someone else’s job in the world. The role we have been given couldn’t be fulfilled by anyone else. And when we are joyful with our lot, we lack nothing at all.

Your turn: Think about the role God has given you to play. Take a few moments to thank Him for entrusting you with this very important job.