In this week’s Torah reading, one of the main themes is rebellion. It is clear from this passage that rebellion against God leads to death. Those who witnessed the Lord’s response to the rebels were most fearful. After the incident with Korach’s rebellion, the Lord affirms the leadership of Aaron and his sons (the priests) at the Tabernacle. Aaron is commanded to guard his charge at the Tabernacle. Why was this the first thing that God commands Aaron? Although the one who rebels against God and His leadership is guilty of this offense alone, when leaders are not fully committed to their call, it creates the environment which leads to rebellion. In other words, the people will reflect the commitment to God that the leadership demonstrates.
In this passage, the Lord emphasizes this by stating the following:
“And you shall guard the holy charge and the charge of the altar and there will not be any more wrath upon the Children of Israel.” Numbers 18:5
This verse reveals that if the leadership fails to maintain the proper spiritual condition of the Tabernacle, then there will be judgment upon the people. Why would this be? It seems unfair that the people should suffer because of the insufficient work of leadership. There are two reasons for this. First, when the Tabernacle is not in the proper spiritual condition, it does not atone for the transgressions of the people and therefore the punishment of sins must be administered. Second, this is but another example of how frequently people are affected by the sins of others.
It is also most interesting that the priesthood itself is called a gift (See Numbers 18:7). This needs to be understood in two ways. First, the fact that the Lord has created the priesthood to serve on behalf of the people is a gift. Second, the calling to serve God in a leadership position is also a gift. Notice the end of verse seven which states that the one who is not from the tribe of Levi and attempts to serve at the Tabernacle shall die. This verse clearly emphasizes the importance of a call to serve in leadership. This should lead the person who is called to take with a great seriousness his service and those whom he is serving to respect the work which he does. It is when these principles are violated that the Lord ceases to bless the people, and when the blessings cease, the outcome will be that God will curse the people. There is no position in between, God is going to be blessing or cursing us. This Biblical truth often escapes our attention.
Therefore, let us renew our commitment to be diligent in our call to Him, regardless of what our call may be. Your faithfulness will impact others and so will one’s lack of service. We seldom think of service to Him as a matter of life and death, but this is exactly what our passage from the Parashah states.