For the week of May 22, 2010 / 9 Sivan 5770
Torah: Bemidbar / Numbers 4:21 - 7:89
Haftarah: Shoftim / Judges 13:2-25

Some Things Only You Can Carry

All the service of the sons of the Gershonites shall be at the command of Aaron and his sons, in all that they are to carry and in all that they have to do. And you shall assign to their charge all that they are to carry. (Bemidbar / Numbers 4:27; ESV)

The sons of Moses' brother Aaron were assigned by God to be priests (Hebrew: cohanim), whose primary responsibility was to offer the sacrifices. The priests were part of the tribe of Levi. The rest of the Levites (Hebrew: levi-im), who were not descended from Aaron, were assigned the job of assisting the priests. This week's Torah portion includes some of the specific responsibilities God gave to the Levitical clans. One of the stated responsibilities was the carrying of the Mishkan (English: Tabernacle). The Mishkan was a large tent-like structure in which the sacrifices were offered. God was very particular with regard to what each clan had to carry.

The Levites are not the only ones to whom God gives burdens to carry. In one of the New Covenant letters followers of Yeshua were given instructions about carrying burdens, albeit figurative ones. One of the interesting aspects of these instructions is that there is a distinction between those burdens only we can carry and those of which we are to help each other carry:

Brothers, suppose someone is caught doing something wrong. You who have the Spirit should set him right, but in a spirit of humility, keeping an eye on yourselves so that you won't be tempted too. Bear one another's burdens - in this way you will be fulfilling the Torah's true meaning, which the Messiah upholds. For if anyone thinks he is something when he is really nothing, he is fooling himself. So let each of you scrutinize his own actions. Then if you do find something to boast about, at least the boasting will be based on what you have actually done and not merely on a judgment that you are better than someone else; for each person will carry his own load (Galatians 6:1-5; Complete Jewish Bible).

While some people find life more burdensome than others, we all have burdens to bear, loads to carry. These include our day-to-day responsibilities, problems we face, opportunities that present themselves, managing our personal health, relationships, and on and on. All of these require some amount of mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical energy for us to effectively handle them. To refer to responsibilities as things we carry is not to imply that they are negative necessarily, but only that they are responsibilities.

Sometimes we make life heavier for ourselves than it needs to be. We can do this by placing unreasonable expectations on ourselves or by buying into the expectations of others. Yeshua addressed this when he said,

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light (Matthew 11:28-30; ESV).

The Messiah isn't saying here that our lives should be responsibility free. Rather he is saying that he would not lay upon us anything beyond what God himself requires of us. The religious leaders of those days had piled all sorts of extra responsibilities upon the people, far more than they were able to bear. Yeshua had come to restore right relationship with God, which included removing all sorts of unnecessary burdens from our lives.

The light burden of Yeshua doesn't mean that we should irresponsibly cast off those things which God has determined we should carry. We may attempt to do that through simple neglect or by trying to get others to carry those things which we ourselves must bear. If God is the one who has placed a particular burden on us to carry, no matter how much we try to ignore it or lay it on others, it will keep coming back to us. The sooner we accept our God-given responsibilities the better.

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