After describing the order in which the twelve tribes of Israel traveled through the desert, the Torah tells of the census of the tribe of Levi, the tribe tasked with transporting and building the Mishkan, the Tabernacle.

Like everything in the Torah, the details of the storyThe details of the story are just as relevent today of the Levites are just as relevant to our lives today as they were to our ancestors in the desert. For we, too, are tasked with the mission of the Levites, to erect a home for G‑d in a spiritual desert, the world we live in. In order to create this sanctuary, we rely on the spiritual part of ourselves, on the Levite within our soul.

The tribe of Levi was divided into three families. The families of Gershon and Merari were tasked with transporting the curtains that covered the Mishkan and the wooden planks of the Mishkan walls. As the Torah tells us:

This is the service of the Gershonite families to serve and to carry. They shall carry the curtains of the Mishkan and the Tent of Meeting, its covering and the tachash skin covering overlaid upon it, and the screen for the entrance to the Tent of Meeting . . . [As for] the sons of Merari . . . This is the charge of their burden for all their service in the Tent of Meeting: the planks of the Mishkan, its bars, its pillars, and its sockets.1

To create a sanctuary in our lives, to build a haven of spirituality in the midst of a spiritual desert, we too employ the skills of the Levite families. Like the families of Gershon and Merari, we must create walls and a roof in order to take control of our environment. We must cultivate the capacity to say no, to reject negative influences, temptations and distractions.

Yet saying no, rejecting the distractions and negativity, is not enough. The third family of Levites, the family of Kehat, was tasked with transporting the vessels of the Mishkan, the Ark, Menorah, Table and Alters:

Aaron and his sons shall finish covering the Holy and all the vessels of the Holy when the camp is set to travel, and following that, the sons of Kehat shall come to carry [them], but they shall not touch the sacred objects for [then] they will die. These are the burden of the sons of Kehat for the Tent of Meeting.2

Like the family of Kehat, we too must fill our spaceWe too must fill our space with holy vessels with the holy vessels, with positive experiences.

The spiritual mission of each of the Levite families is alluded to in their names. Gershon is derived from the word garesh, which means “to chase away,” to divorce. Merari comes from the word mar, which means “bitter.” They represented the difficult task of learning to say no to that which seeks to pull us away from our commitment to holiness. Kehat, on the other hand, is derived from the biblical word yikhat, which means “to gather.” Kehat teaches us to cultivate positive experiences and gather them into our sanctuary, to use them as a conduit to fulfill the purpose of our creation.3