Holy Scut Work

In Naso, this week’s Torah portion, we learn that the children of Gershon were assigned to carry the curtains and tapestries of the Tabernacle. The children of Merrari were assigned to carry the beams, poles, and sockets that comprise the walls. (Numbers 4: 21- 34)Why does the Torah go into detail regarding the minutia of all of the schlepping?  To get a job done everyone needs to plays a role even if not glamorous. What do we see as the goal of our project? What is the not-so-glamorous part of our work? While few enjoy doing the schlepping, if we are truly committed to the mission, it does not feel like meaningless scut work.

A story is told of Reb Aryeh Levin, the Prison Chaplain of Pre-State Jerusalem, getting up early each morning for prayer. The story goes:

On his way to the synagogue, he made it a point to greet everyone he met on the street; and he was especially careful to wish a good morning to the street-cleaners, who also rose early to work. Once he told me why he did this: ‘I have affection for the street-cleaners. Just look: When everyone is still asleep, they take the trouble to come and clean the streets of Jerusalem, so as to support themselves by their own honest labor. Their work is not respected; they are not esteemed for it; their salary is niggardly. And still they take their pains to do their task faithfully.’” (Raz, A Tzaddik in Our Time 101)

We all have what to learn from the children of Gershon and Merrari. Just because we schlep things, that does not make us schleppers. If we commit ourselves to a holy mission, we become truly holy.


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