By Rav Shmuel Brazil
The parsha relates that it was the mishpacha of Kehos which was given the task to carry the aron hakodesh. The gemarah in Sota 35 and the Medrash here says that in reality it was the aron that carried its carriers and not vica versa. What is the depth of this concept? A further thought for exploration in this inyan is why the aron was carried on the shoulders of the Kehotians? This particular method also conveys a deep message.The distinctive difference between a human and an animal is from his shoulders and upwards. The bottom part of the human anatomy is basically equal to that of an animal. An animal has a head that points downwards to earthliness in contrast to man’s that points heavenwards. The animal head is only concerned with its physical and mundane functions. Man’s head was programmed to be utilized for spiritial and holy ascent and growth. However, man has that possibility to elevate the body and make it spiritual and light. After all, being created from earth which is the heaviest of the four foundations fire, wind, water, and earth, man’s body tends to be lazy, lethargic, and heavy by nature. It is the neshama’s influence over it that can lighhen it to the degree where it becomes subervient to the neshama by losing its gravatational draw to pull the neshama to it.
The carrying of the aron on the shoulders is sending the message that one must ensure that his head should be parallel to the “head” and seichel of the aron. Inside the aron were the luchos which represented eHashem’s wisdom given to man. The luchos contained two parts, the stone and the engraved letters. The Chazal say that the luchos weighed tons except the letters made the luchos light enough for Moshe to carry them. This paralleles the relationship of guf and neshama. The guf is likened to the luchos of stone and the neshama is likened to the letters. The wisdm of Torah has the ability to lighten up the guf until it subjugates itself to the neshama. The letters were not written on the luchos but rather engraved in them. The influence of the neshama made an impression on the guf and it lost it’s heaviness and earthliness. It became one with the neshama.
The word for shoulder is kesef which is also the same letters of taikef which translates immediately. When one has the aron and luchos on his shoulders and intergrates the wisdom of Hashem in his head, then his body instead of reacting lethargicly to the commands of the neshama now transforms into a zariz, lightened, and immediately hurries to fulfill its duties.
On a similae vein, when following the flags in this week’s parsha one will notice that the last shevet in each degel is introduced with a preceding letter of vov except for Zevulun which is missing that vov. The Baal Haturim brings a Tanchuma that explains that the reason is because Zevulun supported Yissocher in his study of Torah. The explanation of the missing vov can be interpreted that Zevulun is not deemed a seperate entity from Yissocher but is considered one unit with him. Zevulun is likened to the guf and Yissocher to the neshama. The power of Torah creates a relationship between the guf and neshama that even the guf who is the means becomes one with the neshama. Zevulun will learn in Olam Habah the same Torah that Yissacher learned in Olam Hazeh because they are considered one through the koach of limud haTorah.
The Torah commands “bakasef yisaoo” they should carry the aron on their shoulders. “Bakasef” is the gematria of 502 the total years of the lives of our avos. The head that was situated on their shoulders was the head and mind of Hashem and His Torah. That is why they were able to fufill the mitzvos even before they were given. They were called a merkava for the Shechina as if Hashem rested upon them, for even their guf was sanctified like their neshama. Their neshama was the driver and their guf was the passenger and facilitator. The carrying of the aron was given to Kehos for his name symbolizes the message of bakasaif. Kehos is gematria 505 equal to basar including the three letters.
This is the message that the aron carried its carriers. In the relationship of the aron and its carriers, the aron is the neshama and the carriers are like the guf. Power of Torah lightens the body and removes from it its drive for earthly pursuits and gratifications.
In most years this parsha falls out during the week of Shevuos. When the parsha talks about counting the Jewish nation it uses strange phrase ki sisa es rosh bnei yisrael – when you lift up the heads of Yisrael. Counting each person demonstrates significance that each Yid counts. However the significance is only when our heads are lifted towards shamayim instead of having a animal head which is pointing down to the earth. We are approaching the end of sefirah – counting. Yes, in sefirah we count the numbers of days in prepartation to Maatan Torah which shows that we also are to be counted. However, in the first day of counting we brought the omer karban consisting of barley – animal food. For upon leaving MItzrayim our heads were down on the ground. On Shevous we bring the “shetei halechem” the two breads karban which is food of the human whose head is naturally directed towards the heavens.
To put it succinctly: The Yid’s mission that he received on Shevuos is to be “head and shoulders” above the rest of the world.