Some jobs are inherently dangerous. This was certainly the case for the Kohathites, one of the extended families among the Levites.
The early chapters of the Book of Numbers describe the tasks specified for the Kohathites, and for the other Levitical families, the Gershonites and the Merarites. Each clan must carry parts of the holy Tabernacle as the Israelites make their way through the wilderness. Only one of the clans, though -- the Kohathites -- receive a special warning: “They shall not go in to see the holy things, lest they die” (Numbers 4:20).
The Kohathites were responsible for carrying the Tabernacle’s holiest parts, including the Ark itself. If they mishandled it – or even peered at it – they would die. That’s holy!
The Ark is no longer in our midst, but within each synagogue are holy objects, like the Torah scrolls. We also celebrate special holy days, like Shabbat.
I encourage us all to treat Torah and Shabbat with appropriate reverence. One way we can be “shomrei Shabbat,” keepers of Shabbat, is to refrain from using our phones unnecessarily in the synagogue on Shabbat. Yes, there may be times when this is unavoidable. If you feel you must use the phone on Shabbat or holy days, please try to do so in the entry way, outside the social hall.
Shabbat is meant to free us from the burdens of the work week. May we find freedom as well from the ubiquitous, ever-present, and likely addictive screens on the Day of Rest.
Rabbi Jeffrey Weill