G‑d's original plan, we must remember, was to give the Torah to Adam. This is why Adam was created…. Adam had been the "firstborn" of all humanity, since he was the first human being ever. We also find that Israel is called "Adam". This, in turn, means that Israel is called "firstborn", as we know from the verse "My firstborn son Israel". (Ex. 4:22) However, the rank of the Levites as firstborn outranks that of Israel as a whole, since the Levites represent the" Ruach Adam/spirit of man", whereas the remainder of the tribes of Israel only represents "Nefesh Adam/soul of man." The spiritual Torah preceded the universe by 2000 years…

To make certain that we appreciate this point, the Torah writes concerning the tribe of Levi, "They will teach Your laws to Jacob, and Your instructions to Israel". (Deut. 33:10) This refers to the revealed Torah, the practical Torah, the commandments that have to be fulfilled and the transgressions that have to be avoided. However, the spiritual Torah is the true "firstborn", having preceded the universe by two thousand years; this is the Torah alluded to on the tablets that the clan of Kehot carried in the Holy Ark. The tablets after all, "were the handiwork of the Almighty" (Ex. 32:16) just like the "spiritual Torah", which had preceded the written Torah.

This Torah then must be viewed as the real firstborn, having preceded the Torah that was given to humankind to observe. Accordingly, the Kehotites are mentioned first because they carried the Holy Ark containing the tablets, i.e. the spiritual essence of the Torah. From this perspective, the Kehotites deserved to be considered the firstborn.

Now it is clear why the clan of Kehot was counted first. In matters that must be performed in this material world, we view Gershon as the "firstborn", but in matters that are exclusively the domain of the spiritual world, we consider Kehot as the "firstborn".

Translation by Eliyahu Munk.