Shaya Cohen -


As They Were Commanded, So They Did

I enjoy tracing the use of phrases in the text, and trying to understand what their placement might mean.

Take, for example, the phrase “So they did”, kein ahsoo. It seems to be a throwaway comment, suggesting that someone did what he was told to do. For example:

This Moses and Aaron did; as G-d commanded them, so they did (kein ahsoo)

“So they did” does not need to be there, because the previous phrase said it! The phrase is apparently redundant?

Not if we trace every incidence of this phrase. There are 12 of them – you can see them here. That number by itself should alert us, since 12 is the number of tribes, representing all of the people. But let’s look at the examples. They lay out as a lovely chiasmus. Here they are, in the order found in the Torah:

1: “Let My People Go!”

2: The Passover Offering

3: 3X Building the tabernacle

3: Order of the Camps/Levites guarding the Tabernacle.

4: The readiness of the people to be spiritually elevated

3: Assigning Levites

3: Initiating Levites

2: The Passover Offering

1: The daughters of Tzelophchad with the new inheritance law

Seen this way, the explanation presents itself: each of these steps is a preparation for something greater. And the phrase “so they did” lays out the map for the steps needed to be ready to spiritually elevate, to become holy and connected to G-d. Those steps are:

1: Let My People Go/Daughters of Tzelophchad: Both are a freedom stage – breaking away from the status quo that limits us.

2: Passover Offering: Choosing to seek G-d instead of assimilating with the people around us

3: Levites and Tabernacle: Both act to facilitate our connection to G-d, and to symbolically show the ways in which we can be holy (as represented by the tabernacle).

4: We are ready to grow! We are spiritually able to connect!

Note that in that central verse, the disqualifiers are anyone with a tzaraas (mark that comes from harming others) or a tzav (from harming oneself or acting selfishly), or contact with the dead. These are the three elements that are toxic to a relationship of any kind: Harming others, acting selfishly, and death.

We are ready after we have broken free from inertia, we have chosen to connect with G-d, we have been shown how to conduct that relationship, and finally, we have made ourselves sufficiently unlike animals (and our physical selves) to be ready to reach for spiritual heights.

This one phrase lays out for the Jewish people the journey: by listening to G-d, doing as He has commanded, we have a pathway to elevate and grow.

[an @iwe, @kidcoder and @eliyahumasinter work]

Comments are welcome!