How to become a Levite … even if you weren't born as one




Insight into: Parsha Bamidbar 

Are you a Kohen or a Levite? If you are not sure, then most probably you are like all the rest of the Jews n an Israelite. Can you become a Levite if you were not born into that lineage? Have you ever heard of someone "converting" to a Kohen?

In Parsha Bamidbar, G‑d speaks to Moses saying, "Indeed I have taken the Levites from among the children of Israel instead of all firstborn … The Levites would be mine" (Numbers, 3:11)

When G‑d redeemed the Jews from Egypt and struck down all the firstborn Egyptians, the "firstborns" of the Jews were spared and were, therefore, dedicated to be special servants of G‑d in the Holy Temple. 

Then came the Golden Calf, and many firstborn sons took part in this sin, while every single Levite refused to participate. In this parsha, we read how, as a result, G‑d removed the honor of working in the Temple from the firstborns and bestowed it on the Levites. 

Each Levite, as well as the Kohenim, only served in the Temple for a few days a year. What did they do the rest of the time? They weren't given land to farm like the rest of the nation, so there must have been a special mission that G‑d entrusted to them. 

At the end of Deuteronomy, as Moses blesses each tribe, he also gives a "job description" to the Levites. "They shall teach your laws to Jacob and your Torah to Israel." The Levites were the spiritual leaders of the Jewish people. They were designated to be the teachers, rabbis and judges for the whole nation. 

Levites were not to spend their lives in Jerusalem surrounded by the holy atmosphere of the Temple and isolated from the rest of the Jews. They were expected to live in the hearts of the Jewish communities, in the Solons and Beachwoods, and have an impact on everyone they met. 

On a daily basis, they went out to the little shtetlach, gathered the farmers and workers who weren't able to learn Torah, and presented them with opportunities to become educated. They were responsible for collecting the Jewish children in each city and serving as schoolteachers. In brief, they were accountable for the spiritual welfare of the Jewish nation. 

And today? The Lubavitcher Rebbe, of blessed memory, often quoted Maimonides, who said that each person is inspired to dedicate his life to the service of G‑d, to make G‑d's affairs into his own personal business; he is considered by G‑d as a Levite. 

When you take on the issues of Jewish education in your city, when you make sure that there is a minyan (quorum of ten) in your synagogue, when you cannot sleep because of the alarming rate of assimilation and you do something to better the situation, then you are a true Levite. 

You may not receive the first aliyah (lit. elevation) assigned to the Kohen, or the second aliyah dedicated to the Levite, but you received the true aliyah, the special relationship with G‑d. 

This article is dedicated to the blessed memory of Rabbi Levi Bialo who tragically lost his life while serving as a true Levite.