What can The Tabernacle tell us about the Coronavirus pandemic?

So this sounds like it’s going to be incredibly Jewish. Which it is to be fair. I’ve taken the weekly reading of the Torah (Nasso) and shoved it into a more readable and modernised interpretation. Written as part of Limmud on one Leg

I don’t know whether it’s exclusively a British thing, but I’m always a fan of the underdog. It could be a Jewish thing, but however much we’d like to think, I’m not sure it holds up under closer scrutiny. We value our conquering Kings more than our concubines. Nasso though throws some interesting ideas into the mix. 

The Hebrews are wandering the desert, with the Leviim given the unenviable task of schlepping the parts of the tabernacle on their backs (times like this I’m grateful for being a Cohen).

It seems like the most Jewish thing in the world to not only wander in the desert but to make it an order of magnitude harder by carrying an IKEA style flat pack the size of a house (OK small room plus rather large courtyard) made of the heaviest materials through the punishing heat. Even with divine providence, it sounds like a schlep.

What makes this particularly interesting is the discussion of the different families within the Leviim and the roles they held. The entire tribe were responsible for carrying the constituent parts of The Tabernacle but each family had very specific responsibilities. The Kohathites carried all the fancy yet light decorations and were lavished with praise. For ease, let’s call them The Celebrities. Then there was the Merarites. They carried all the heavy poles and pillars. They weren’t seen as anything special. They did the job that no one else wanted to do. Let’s call them The Key Workers. 

You can probably see where I’m going with this.

Towards the end of the Parsha (autocorrected to Parish by my computer) we read about the donations of resources from all twelve tribes to help with the transportation issues. Among other things they provided six wagons, which to be fair should have been provided from the start. But why six and not twelve? Some commentators say it’s as a sign of unity between the tribes as two tribes pitched in together, but then why not provide one to truly show unity? The commentary goes on to say, that six wagons were provided so the carrying would be made a bit easy but not too easy because then, the Leviim wouldn’t feel a sense of spiritual achievement. 

Applied to our current situation however, it could make for some uncomfortable parallels. The suggestion is that The Hebrews had the resources to make life easier for all the Leviim, but wanted them instead to be heroes, breaking their backs on the front line whilst the other eleven tribes looked on. It could be argued that each tribe put more focus on their own resources than the broken backs of a significant proportion of the wider community.

Whilst I’m incredibly grateful for all those who go into the path of danger every day for my safety, I’d rather they had all the resources they needed, than a broken back at my expense.