But He’s So Young! by Avi Wollman


With regard to the counting of the Leviim, Parshat Bemidbar states, “Pekod Et Bnei Levi LeVeit Avotam LeMishpechotam, Kol Zachar MiBen Chodesh VaMalah Tifkedeim,” “Count the sons of Levi according to their fathers’ houses, according to their families, every male one month of age and up shall you count them” (3:15).  However, concerning the rest of Bnei Yisrael, the Torah required that only those twenty  years and older be counted, since they were old enough to serve in the army.  The common explanation given (see Rashbam to Bemidbar 1:47 and Chizkuni to Bemidbar 1:49) for the difference between the Leviim and Bnei Yisrael is that since the members of Shevet Levi were spiritual and did not serve in the army, they were already counted at thirty days.  However, it would seem that Leviim should be counted at thirty years, when they were old enough to serve in the Mishkan.  Why does the Torah count the Leviim so early?

Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch points out that while the Leviim actually started to serve in the Mishkan at thirty years, their training truly began at thirty days.  The Leviim were not just responsible for taking care of the Mishkan; they were also in charge of Bnei Yisrael’s spiritual well-being.  Due to this consideration, they needed to start early in training for their role as spiritual leaders of the nation.

How often do we hear about famous athletes, musicians, and others who started developing their skills as soon as they were able?  They did not just wait until they turned twenty, but often started under five years old!  Similarly, we must realize that the task to educate the Levi does not begin near age thirty, but rather as young as thirty days.  While this makes an excellent parenting Dvar Torah, I believe it applies in a much more general sense as well.  We often say to ourselves, “I should really do that, but I'll wait till the summer/till I retire/a few years.”  Hillel teaches us (Avot 2:5) that this is the wrong way to think.  “Al Tomar LiChSheEfneh Eshneh, Shema Lo Tipaneh,” “Do not say, ‘When I have free time, I will change,’ lest you have no free time.”  The Torah teaches us that we should not put off tasks until a time that we feel will be more convenient for us, but rather we should begin immediately.  Even if we will definitely be able to accomplish the task later, it will certainly not be with the same enthusiasm, attention to detail, and effectiveness.

If a thirty-day-old infant is considered ready to begin his path to greatness, you're definitely ready, too.

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