“Hinei Lakachti Et HaLviim MiToch Bnei Yisrael,” “I have taken the Leviim from among Bnei Yisrael” (BeMidbar 3:12).
When the Leviim are selected, the Torah uses the language of MiToch, from among the Children of Israel. There are other similar verses, such as “Take the Leviim from among Bnei Israel and purify them” (8:6) and “They are given over… to Me from among the Children of Israel” (8:16). Rav Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld explains that the Torah is teaching us that the Leviim are not a separate Jewish society, but rather full-fledged and embedded members of the Jewish community.
Rav Yosef Chaim goes on to explain that there is an allusion to this integration in the very word לויים. The letters of Yisrael are י' ש' ר' א' ל', or, writing out the names of these letters in full, יוד שין ריש אלף למד. The middle letters of these words are “ו י י ל מ,” the very letters that make up the word לויים. This alludes to the fact that the Levites truly come “from the middle (midst) of Israel!”
Yaakov Avinu blessed Levi and his descendents that they should be the teachers of Klal Yisrael. The successful teacher is not a simple disseminator of knowledge. Whether the subject is Torah or Chochmah, the successful teacher is embedded within the community. A successful Yeshiva high school teacher can have a far-reaching impact, often extending long after graduation. I taught at two universities before coming to TABC. With a few exceptions, the relationship between a professor and his students is for the most part proper and does not extend much beyond the university. In the Yeshiva world, I find the connection often continues long after graduation. Indeed, Rabbi Jachter and I are trying to find a way to attend the upcoming weddings of two alumni who are getting married on the same date. It is this closeness which sets the Yeshiva teacher apart from those who teach in other institutions and helps make the profession so rewarding.