Steve Rodan

Just Do Your Job!

As directed by the Lord, they were appointed by Moses, each man to his service and his burden; they were counted as the Lord had commanded Moses. [Numbers 4:49]

In our weekly Torah portion of Naso, we’re in the army now — G-d’s army. As in every military there are the commanders and there are soldiers. These soldiers are a bit older than your average teenage conscript. The Levites run from 30 to 50, and their job is to serve G-d’s house known as the Mishkan rather than kill people. The Levites are divided into three clans, each numbering several thousand and trained in a range of skills.

The eldest of the families is Gershon. Their job is to carry the curtains of the Mishkan and Tent of the Meeting. They also transport the outdoor copper altar, the hides that cover the Mishkan as well as the screen at the entrance to the courtyard. The supervisor is Ithamar, the fourth and youngest son of Aharon the High Priest.

Then comes Merari. These guys do the heavy lifting — the planks, bars, pillars and sockets of the Mishkan. Ithamar is in charge here as well.

Finally, comes Kehat. This family is regarded as special, even princely. They are assigned the transport of the contents of the Tent of the Meeting, which include the holiest chamber of the Mishkan, also known as the Holy of Holies. The vessels include the Ark, Menorah, Table and Golden Altar. The Levites are warned not to touch or even look at the actual vessels on pain of death. Their supervisor is Elazar, son No. 3 and decades later the High Priest. He is also responsible for the oil to light the Menorah, incense for the inner altar and the daily meal offering.

Not all of the Levites shlepped. Some were responsible for the music sung and played in the Mishkan during the sacrifices. Others were assigned to man the entrances to the complex.

The cardinal rule: Nobody could do somebody’s else’s job.

An incident: Rabbi Yehoshua Bar Hananiah went to help open the doors [of the Temple] with Rabbi Yochanan Ben Gudgada. The latter told him, ‘Go back my son, for you are one of the singers and not one of the doormen.’ [Talmud Bavli. Arachin. 11:B]

This might not work in many militaries where multi-tasking is often a key requirement. A rifleman might have to take over for the platoon’s machine gunner. The medic might need to fire a mortar in between bandages. The radioman might have to don night-vision goggles and move out first.

But there is an upside to working in the Mishkan. When you have only one job you take full responsibility. You don’t ask or receive outside help. It’s all in the family.

When it comes to the leadership, however, the opposite is the case. They must be able and willing to do all to ensure the success of their divine mission. Eighty-three-year-old Aaron worked with his sons to pack all the vessels of the Tent of the Meeting before they were taken away by the Levites. Aaron didn’t have a boy do it. The High Priest was told by G-d, “Do not endanger the children of Kehat by having the vessels exposed.”

Do not cause the tribe of the families of Kehat to be cut off from among the Levites. Do this for them, so they should live and not die, when they approach the Holy of Holies. Aaron and his sons shall first come and appoint each man individually to his task and his load. They shall not come in to see when the holy [vessels] are being wrapped up, lest they die. [Numbers 4:18-20]

And that’s the Torah’s idea of an army — where the commanders are responsible for their soldiers, where the officers lead by example rather than by command. Where the brass is always reminded that G-d is on top of the situation and knows what is accidental and what is willful negligence.

You probably never heard of Micha Shtiebel, perhaps an ordinary Israeli who reports to his job, and once or twice a year to army reserve duty. But after watching the neglect of a military for more than nine months, Shtiebel decided to speak out. He told of the army’s refusal to supply basic equipment to its soldiers. The helmets were produced more than 50 years ago. He spoke of the lack of training compared to Iran’s training of Hamas and Hizbullah.

Shtiebel’s story should have been front page news in the Israeli media. But that wasn’t the idea. Instead, he spoke to the New York-based Jewish Telegraphic Agency, a more than 100-year-old wire service that supplies the Jewish media in the Diaspora. Why? Because Diaspora Jews had reportedly donated some $1 billion in equipment for the hapless Israeli soldiers since the Hamas war in October 2023, and Shtiebel’s message was that the combat units needed a lot more because the army was refusing to do its job.

“The army claims nothing is missing,” a senior army commander was quoted as saying in the JTA article. “But look at me, from head to toe, I am covered in donated gear: helmets, protective eyewear, body armor, the scope on my rifle, and even the fatigues I am wearing. Everything except for the weapon.” [Israeli battlefield commanders explain why they are breaking IDF rules to solicit donated gear – Jewish Telegraphic Agency (]

What kind of army would do this to its own soldiers? What kind of military would maintain a policy of neglect for nearly a year after Oct. 7? Perhaps it is the same army that withdrew troops, disarmed civilians, authorized a music festival outside the Gaza Strip and then took eight hours to respond after the Hamas butchers invaded.

That would not be the mistake of Aaron, Moses, Elazar and Ithamar. They might not have been good-looking or articulate, but they cared about their people. And that is the only mark of a leader. He cares. Once he stops caring, he loses the mantle of leadership regardless of what the sycophants say.

About the Author
Steve Rodan has been a journalist for some 40 years and worked for major media outlets in Israel, Europe and the United States. For 18 years, he directed Middle East Newsline, an online daily news service that focused on defense, security and energy. Along with Elly Sinclair, he has just released his first book: In Jewish Blood: The Zionist Alliance With Germany, 1933-1963 and available on Amazon.