Friday, March 09, 2007
cheit haeigel and the election of the levi'im
Moshe commanded the Levi’im who gathered to kill the eigel worshippers, “milu yedcham hayom laHashem” (22:29). Rashi interprets the term “milu’im” as a reference to initiation into service in the Mishkan. Although the first born were supposed to have served in the Mishkan, they were removed because of their participation in the eigel and the Levi’im who followed Moshe took their place. I think there might be more between the lines here. The halacha is that a kohein who kills someone is not permitted to do avodah or duchan. We know that David haMelech was prevented from building the Mikdash because his life was spent fighting wars. The concept of spilling blood, even when justified, seems to be antithetical to the idea of Mikdash. Moshe assured the Levi’im that contrary to the norm, the killing of those who engaged in the worship of the eigel would not preclude their having a role in the Mishkan – to the contrary, it would sanctify the Levi’im and they would become the primary agents of avodah.