Though I am sometimes puzzled over the level of detail the Torah sometimes contains about certain subjects, this week, I find myself not at all puzzled by the instructions for the preparation of the ritual items in the Mishkan in preparation for the Israelites moving to their next location. I’ve just recently completed another move. If I’m counting correctly (and excluding “temporary relocations like college) I have moved my household/personal belongings between states eleven times since 1977, the year I graduated from college. Four of those moves were completed with the assistance of professional moving companies, and the remaining seven utilized the services of various moving companies.
For some of these moves, I have been extremely well organized in advance. (Only once did I employ a moving company to actually pack things, all the other times I did my own packing.) For a few of these moves, including my most recent back to the NYC area after 3 decades away, my procrastinating instinct found me hastily packing things at the last minute, and not always in the best and safest manner.
All things considered, my property has survived these moves fairly well. My Steinway upright, though its exterior is worn, has fared quite well. Over the years I’ve lost a few small items to breakage, and a few larger pieces of furniture were damaged (mostly because they were made of particle-board, which just doesn’t travel well.) I’ve only lost one piece of furniture completely to breakage, and that was a Sauder particle-board desk that didn’t survive the short trip to northern VA to MD. This most recent trip, the only casualties were a corner of my favorite TV/Stereo stand, and my favorite bedside lamp (a model that has both a regular torchiere-style room lamp plus another lamp just for reading.)
On those moves when I have been a better advance planner, I usually took the time to complete breakdown more sensitive furniture pieces (like IKEA desks, my keyboard recording studio desk, bookshelves, and the like.) Some movers have insisted on this, others have said as long as things are broken down enough to fit through doors and around corners, that’s enough for them.
I’ve a lot of items still packed, and it could be some time before I actually get some of these items unpacked, and who knows what else I may discover, but I remain hopeful. Yet, if I discover some hastily or less-than-optimally wrapped items broken, I need but think upon this parasha to remind myself that I have no one but myself to blame for failing to do due diligence when it comes to packing. Nothing I own is really as sacred to me as the ritual objects of the Mishkan were to the ancient Israelites (well, there are a few things I hold quite dear) yet if I expect them to survive the trip, I must be prepared to take the same care as Aaron and his sons did in preparing the ritual items to be moved by the Kohatites.
Similarly, I need to be sure that the people I entrust to actually load and move my items are as trustworthy and reliable as the Kohatites. For the most part, I’ve been satisfied with the care shown to my property by the various movers I have utilized. There have been a few hot shots, and others that take risks I think are unwise. I imagine even among the Kohatites there were a few overly gung-ho, or, oppositely, slackers.
I have noticed in myself the signs of age influencing the care with which I pack (or with which I supervise those packing/loading/unloading for me.) I used to be a much more fastidious person when it came to careful packing. Having experienced items less than optimally packed still surviving the trip, I have allowed myself to become a little more lax. I’m actually unhappy about that, and making a vow to myself that for the next move (and I’m sure there will be one at some point) I will return to the habits of my younger self, carefully disassembling and packing things. (One measure of my laxness is that I barely managed to use half a roll of bubble pack, and I didn’t buy a single specialized picture frame/mirror box, and simply used un-formed boxes as covers for some of the larger pieces of art.) I even allowed the movers to to take my 42” HD TV without packing, just wrapped in moving blankets, even though I still had the original carton available. I didn’t completely disassemble my desk or keyboard workstation. I even let the movers take the oldest of my three desktop computer CPUS and it’s monitor in just moving blankets, as I didn’t have the original cartons and hadn’t packed them up into other boxes. (I just can’t imagine having ever thrown the original packing out-I am really careful about saving those sorts of boxes-so I am at a loss as to what happened to it.) Imagine if Aaron and his sons had been as lax in preparing the ritual items of the Mishkan for traveling? I suppose after 11 moves, it’s hard to care as much, but that’s silly. (On the other hand, I’ll bet the Kohatites were relieved when the Israelites finally had a permanent location for the Mishkan. However, on the other other hand, this just left the Kohatites without enough to do and eventually to led to lots of infighting among the priestly clans.)
So, for at least the present moment, this explains to me why chapter 4 of Bemidbar outlines the specific steps in preparing the ritual articles for being moved. There’s a lesson in that for all of us, and for all time.
I recall that some years ago, North American Van Lines boasted as having moved the treasures of a King, being the company chosen to transport the Tutankhamen exhibit around the US. Imagine the slogan of the Kohatite Moving Company: we moved the treasures of our G”d. We would all do well to learn to take the time to carefully prepare items for moving, just as Aaron and his sons were instructed to do.
Having spent another week unpacking, and getting re-used to life in tNYC, I’m definitely ready for Shabbat! How about you?
©2011 by Adrian A. Durlester
Some other musings on this parasha:
Bemidbar 5770 - Sense Us
Bemidbar 5769 - That V'eirastikh Li Feeling
Bamidbar 5767-What Makes It Holy? (Redux & Revised 5761)
Bemidbar 5766-Redux 5760-Knowing Our Place
Bemidbar 5764-Doorway to Hope
Bemidbar 5763-Redux 5759 (with additions for 5763)
Bemidbar 5762-They Did As They Were Told? You Gotta be Kidding!
Bemidbar 5759-Marrying Gd-Not Just for Nuns
Bemidbar 5760-Knowing Our Place
Bemidbar 5761-What Makes it Holy