Consciences about What Others Think

At the end of last week’s Torah portion of Bamidbar, the Torah counts and discusses the role of the family of Kehas in the carrying of the mishkan. Then in the first two pesukim of this week’s Torah portion of Naso, it begins: “Hashem spoke to Moshe saying: Raise up the head of the children of Gershon them also according to their father’s house, according to their family” (Bamidbar 4:21, 22).

The Daas Zekeinim, and the Rosh in a bit more detail, were wondering why the pasuk says “them also,” as if we would have thought otherwise. They answer: “for because of the earlier census (3:17) which was from one month old and older, the children of Gershon were counted first since he was the oldest of the tribe of Levi, as it says ‘And the children of Levi, Gershon, Kehas, and Merrari’ (Breishis 46:11). But this census of age 30 and up the children of Kehas were counted first because the main service was upon them, i.e. they carried the aron (ark), shulchan (table of the showbread), and the alters (see earlier 3:31). This is why it mentions “them also” by the children of Gershon, meaning that even though the children of Kehas were commanded to be counted first, the children of Gershon were not left out and not fully counted, rather they also were counted. [Click here and here for Hebrew text.] 

The family of Gershon was the first to be counted in the general census of the tribe of Levi, from one month of age and older, because Gershon was the firstborn of Levi. But when it came time to count the census of those doing the service for the Mishkan, from ages 30 to 50, the family of Kehas was counted first. Therefore the Torah says to not worry, the family of Gershon will also be counted in this census of the workers. The simple and obvious question is what is the concern? A few pesukim later in pasuk 38 the count for the family of Gershon is counted amongst those who are able to serve. They didn’t do anything wrong; there is nothing to suspect them about. The family of Kehas just had a more important role in the Mishkan than the family of Gershon, so why did the Torah have to waste two extra words just to tell us don’t worry they will be counted?

It must be, then, that people have a natural tendency of being suspicious of change when something different happens. We learn from here that one has a responsibility to quell the suspicions as much as possible at the very least in cases where there is no reason for anyone to be suspect as in this scenario. For this reason Hashem felt compelled to foreshadow at the beginning of the Torah portion that the family of Gershon will be counted in the second census even though, with enough patience we would see in the next aliyah that they are counted.