When I was 35, I ran away from God. That’s what Torah teaches me. Yaakov was left alone. God is elevated alone. But I never knew alone since I was a child. God was always with me and I wanted to experience alone. So I ran away from Jerusalem.
Where did I go? I ran away from Jerusalem. I ran away from God. Where do you run away from God?
The truth is I planted myself in a monastery and the truth is that the first night there, I sobbed my eyes to sleep and in the morning, I woke up laughing hysterically. I’m running away from God and I plant myself in a monastery? I said to myself, “Forget it. You’re never going to be able to run away from God if this is the best you can do!”
I left the monastery once because I had to teach from this book, the Mei HaShiloach, the Ishbitzer Rebbe on this week’s parashat Naso. Why? Because for me this teaching in this parasha is one of his main headquarters for what does it mean to serve God from a place of doubt. And what does it mean to serve God from a place of doubt?
Levi has three sons – Gershon, Kehath and Merari – and each one of them a different attribute. Kehath is also connected to what parts of the tabernacle they (the Levites) were carrying. קהת בעלי תורה – He is the one who says, “No problem. I know what to do. I’ve learned enough,” – I’ve never learned enough – “but I know enough. I’ve learned that I can manage in the world.”
Merari – בני מצוות ומעשים טובים – everything is okay. Tell me what, tell me what the book says. Tell me what the halakha says, and that’s what I’ll do.
בני גרשון, בעלי יראה – The children of Gershon, they’re in continuous trepidation. Maybe we’ll get it wrong. Maybe we got it wrong.
The image I like to think about is India. Right? Here in Israel, everyone’s going to India. Kehath, they say, “I can go to India. I can figure out what temples I can go into, or not, where I can find food that is kosher, or not. I’ll be okay.
Merari says, “I have to go to India but, what am i going to do? I’ll go on an organized tour, an organized tour that is appropriate for the observant traveler so i know Shabbat’s Shabbat. I know kosher food will be there. I’ll be fine.”
Gershon says, “India? How can you leave the house? How can you be sure you’re gonna have a minyan three times a day and what happens if the bus breaks down on Thursday? You’re gonna be stuck for Shabbat. So, no India.”
The thing is, there’s something I actually believe they have in common because you can be Kehath and sometimes blow it.
Merari says, “No agony or no ecstasy. What’s going to be? Everything is simple.”
And Gershon says God created an amazing world and I’m not going to take pleasure in it?
I want to ask you to think about yourselves because I think that what happens here is that in some way they have clarity as to where they serve and then there’s doubt in the way they serve.
I want to ask you where does doubt seep into your life, in what fields? Assurance of Kehath? The simple, quiet Merari? The trepidation of Gershon?
And I want to say. the truth is, sometimes, in some fields, I’m Kehath, I’ll be okay. I can manage. I know I won’t get in trouble. Sometimes it’s Merari. It needs to be simple. Yeah, no agony no ecstasy. Simple. It’s okay. And sometimes, like Gershon, I’m gonna stay home. I’m just not gonna go there.
What in your life do you find yourselves being Kehath? Gershon? Merari?
And, sometimes in our life, in some stages of our life, we’re one and in another stage of our life, we are the other. And that’s also true.
How do you live with doubt in your life? In doubt with your relationships? In doubt with your connection to God?
How do you live with doubt? This parasha, the headquarters of serving God and living in the world from a place of doubt.
Shabbat Shalom from Schechter.
Reb Mimi serves as the Mashpiah Ruchanit (spiritual mentor) of the Rabbinical School, and teaches Talmud and Hassidic Thought. She will guide and walk with the rabbinical students on their personal-spiritual journeys. She served as the Mashpiah Ruchanit of the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies in Los Angeles for the last 16 years. Prior to this Reb Mimi was one of the founding administration and faculty members of the “Yakar” Beit Midrash and community.