Parashat Naso נָשֹׂא continues with the counting the children of Levi and the Creator appointing specific functions to the children of Levi as well as to each of the twelve tribes. Israel was called “The Chosen People” because they were chosen by the Creator to fulfil a role, regardless of those who say, “I never asked to be chosen”. Free Will versus Self-Determination is a subject of much discussion. Some believe that they were predestined to do what they are doing in their lives, so where does Free Will come in? Free will is the greatest gift that we humans have been given. Being made in the Creator’s likeness and image speaks to our spiritual nature, not our physical one (in contrast with most religions which have formed their gods in the image of man.
Do we have free will or are our lives predetermined? Progressive liberals say that we do not have the capacity to think for ourselves, which is why we need them, that we are simply a product of our environment and are not responsible for our choices. It is important for us to prepare our children to be responsible for their actions and not blame others for their failures.
The Creator ordered the Israelites to form three camps: the camp of the Sanctuary (makhaneh Shekhinah – מחנה השכינה), the camp of the Leviim (makhaneh Leviim – מחנה לויים) and the camp of Israel (makhaneh Israel – ישראל מחנה), camps with their own regulations and functions. They couldn’t simply switch from one camp to the other. Today we think that we are free to do whatever we please without assuming responsibility that our position entails. That is not free will; free will implies responsibility for the greater good of the whole.
What are the criteria for being chosen? Does the Creator choose us according to our outward appearance? When our prophet Samuel was sent to the house of Jesse to choose one of his sons to be the next king, he would have chosen one who looked the best, the strongest, the tallest but God chose David, a ruddy, shepherd boy. The Creator sees what is within; He does not judge by externals (I Samuel 16:7b) … ‘for the LORD sees not as man sees: for man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.’ We have each been chosen even if we cannot understand why; not because of what we can do for Him but because of who we are.
Israel was chosen by the Creator; He never asked them if they wanted to be chosen. We may not ‘feel’ as if we are a part of a greater calling nor understand why we have an indescribable attraction to it. It might be that we are afraid of the responsibility that comes if we give ourselves fully to our calling. Many of us think that we are not qualified for the task, so we refuse to try. We become our worst enemies, convincing ourselves that we will not succeed. Then the Creator steps in, prepares the way for us when we finally must acknowledge to accept our part in it.
Numbers 4:49 tells us that by order of the Creator, through the hand of Moshe, each man would be classified according to their duties and their loads; everyone was counted. This is letting us know that we are each called with a purpose in mind, having been given a duty that we are responsible to carry out. We see that each of the tribes had the same value but were given different functions. The Creator wants us unified, not uniform. Betzalel and Aholiav each had a special talent, but they needed to rely upon the rest of the community to perform the tasks at hand. Some are called to be leaders while others to be workers. We tend to judge according to those whose roles appear to have less or more value. Those with low self-esteem denigrate themselves. Instead of comparing ourselves with others, let us compare ourselves with ourselves, to see if we are growing. Everyone is born with a unique personality and distinctive qualities, even in the case of identical twins. I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; how wonderful are Your works; and that my soul knows right well. Psalm 139:14
The Creator brought order to the people but when people rebel against this order, they create chaos. This is what we are seeing in our world today. Why are we against order and right behavior and following the moral values given to us by the Creator? Part of the problem lies in the education of our children who are being taught that there is no right or wrong by teachers with little or no moral values. We are living in an environment of fear, very different than the one that the Creator established for us. He wants us to be strong and to live in a community with order. The Creator gave Aaron the words to bless his people. May the Lord bless and protect us; May He makes His face shine upon us and favor us. May His Presence be with us and grant us His Shalom. (Num. 6:24-26). He wants us to know that we are not alone; that we have been chosen for something special. Isolation is not good for anyone; in union there is strength.
My call to you is to know that you have something to give, that you were made with a purpose. Do not complain that you are not good enough, because when you denigrate yourself, you are saying that the Creator is a failure. Our greatest joy comes when we find our place in this world no matter how insignificant it may seem. When we do what is right, we fulfill His calling. Do you think that you have to “feel” that you have been chosen? It has nothing to do with feelings; it has to do with reason and acknowledging that the Bore Olam created you to be part of His people. Are you running away from being chosen? If you are part of the order of the Creator, you are in a wonderful place and He will help you to do your job. That is what it means to be part of the commonwealth, the community of Israel. No one is forced to accept it; all we need to say, Hineni – Here I am.