Precisely at that moment, a young Kohathite named David, pulled out his smartphone, and launched his Facebook app. He used the app to take a selfie and just for good measure, posted the photo of himself, including the hash-tag #schlepper. Standing next to David was another Kohathite named Samuel, who looked at what David was doing, and said, "I can't believe you have reception way out here in the desert."
A frustrated David turned to Samuel and said, "I'm getting better coverage now that Verizon is no longer on strike. But golly, I'm just peeved that we have to stand here, wait for Aaron and his sons to cover up all those holy objects, and then go in and schlep them to our next destination. Kohathites schlep this, Kohathites schlep that. Enough of this grunt work already!"
Samuel looked at his disgruntled partner and said, "I don't know, David. I try to take a different perspective. I try to see the opportunity in what we have before us. Not everybody has a chance to help dismantle and set up the Tabernacle every time we're on the move. Yeah, it's backbreaking labor, and it's really hot and uncomfortable in this desert, but just think how important it is to handle these sacred vessels all the time."
David stood there, counting the number of "likes" and reading the comments that his selfie was already receiving on Facebook, relishing in the attention and instant gratification of other people. Samuel asked him, "David, did you just hear a word I said? We Kohathites have been entrusted with a sacred task. What, do you think that they should create an app to manage the carrying of items in the Tabernacle too?"
Okay, so the charge given to the Kohathites didn't happen exactly like that, but the fictional interchange between David and Samuel is still deeply relevant. That the Torah makes space to explain the responsibilities of the Kohathites is a crucial inclusion and can serve as a powerful reminder for each of us about an oft-forgotten truth of life - wait for it, that none of us is really that special.
It's easy to complain when tasks are difficult or we have too many of them. Social media certainly doesn't help. We live in a world where we notice everything that everyone else is doing all the time, and somehow, we can be led to think that certain people are happier or more successful or more recognized than we are. But at the end of the day, Torah reminds us, through the actions of the Kohathites, that schlepping is a sacred responsibility. There's no glory, no award, no honor, no recognition, no ceremony where someone says "congratulations, now shake with your right and take the diploma with your left."
These Kohathites don't even get to view the sacred objects in the Tent of Meeting. They can't go inside and witness the dismantling of the Sanctuary, because that's not their role. They're just not that special, and they're just not that important. But they get "honorable mention" in the Torah, and why shouldn't that be enough? Why do we live in a world where a child brings home a 97 on an exam and we find ourselves asking, "What happened to the other 3 points?" Why are team sports about competition and winning, when they used to be about having fun and learning the value of teamwork and sportsmanship? Just today, eJewish philanthropy published an article about heads of Jewish schools resigning over the constant pressure and scrutiny that they face from their leadership to achieve impossible perfection, such that they find their passion for Jewish education dissolving, and they find themselves disinterested. What kind of world have we created for ourselves? And why? What drives this need to be perfect and this need to be the best? Why isn't "honorable mention" good enough? Why isn't "not being mentioned at all" good enough?
A Hasidic tale about Reb Simcha Bunem relates that he carried two slips of paper, one in each pocket. On one he wrote, "Bishvili nivra ha-olam—'for my sake the world was created.' On the other he wrote: V’anokhi afar v’efer”—'I am but dust and ashes.' He would take out each slip of paper as necessary, as a reminder to himself." Jewish tradition offers us a reminder - that there is value, both in celebrating and affirming, and even humbly sharing and publicizing the blessings of life, inasmuch as sometimes, life is about being "dust and ashes." In fact, one teaching about Reb Simcha suggests that "when we're down," we are supposed to remember that the world was created for our sake, and when we are achieving and celebrating, we are to remind ourselves that we are dust and ashes.
Jewish tradition also teaches that there's holiness in both facets of these slips of paper. More often that not, we might venture to guess that life presents us with more moments in which we are "dust and ashes," moments where the world doesn't seem to notice us, moments where the world doesn't seem to give a you-know-what. But where David felt the "dust and ashes" of being the "schlepper," Samuel saw the same opportunity as a blessing, as a gift.
It's truly hard to feel that taking the garbage out, doing the supermarket shopping, schlepping our kids to activity after activity, cleaning the house, getting passed over for a promotion in the workplace, could even be considered holy. But Jewish tradition teaches us and reminds us, that while we crave those moments where it feels that the world is created for our sake, we, like everyone else around us, are nothing but "dust and ashes," as fragile, vulnerable, and imperfect as the next person over, even though they may seem to do a better job of hiding it.
The Kohathites got a little bit of mention, a little bit of recognition, in our Torah, for the job of being the schlepper, and doing the grunt work. Can we see the value in being a schlepper? Can we see the value in what we do every single day, that cares for the people closest to us, teaches and nurtures them, and yet often can feel so painstakingly ordinary and even sometimes meaningless?
What do we actually want from our lives? When will we actually be satisfied and see the blessing in our own existence? When will enough actually be enough? For all of his comments about greatness, for all of the attention that he received and for how much he was noticed, Muhammad Ali once said, "The fight is won or lost far away from witnesses - behind the lines, in the gym, and out there on the road, long before I dance under those lights.
 Numbers 1:1.
 Numbers 4:15.
 Numbers 4:20.