Dvar for Naso (Numbers 4:21-7:89)
Moshe is instructed to “take a census of the sons of Gershon, of them too, following their fathers’ houses, according to their families” (4:22). This instruction raises several questions: 1) Why is the family of Gershon counted second, after Kehat, if Gershon was the oldest? 2) Why is there an extra phrase “of them too”? 3) Instructions typically end with “according to their families, following their fathers’ houses”; why is the order reversed here?
Rav S. R. Hirsch posits that Kehat was listed first because their responsibility was to assemble and disassemble the objects of the Mishkan, a role that preceded all others logistically. Being listed first isn’t meant to diminish anyone else’s roles, so the Torah tells us “of them too,” to highlight that they are all equal. The families’ taking no offense at their role in comparison to others is a testament to their putting their overall roles ahead of their specific familial roles. It is this selflessness that the Torah spotlights for us, and for us to emulate.