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.

12 comments:

  1. Bill Selliger8:58 AM

    The reason is because the mida that the chot'im demonstrated was "kashius oref" - a strength of spirit that manifests itself in stubbornness and insubordination; an inability (or lack of willingness) to recognize and submit l'hazulas. The chot'im used this mida to their detriment. The Levi'im utilized this very characteristic of "k'shay oref" in a positive way (ha'omer l'aviv ul'emo lo r'isiv, v'es achiv lo hikir...); effectively reversing the consequences of the cheit. That is the reason they were zocheh l'gidula - for demonstrating the ability to utilize negative tendencies in a positive manner.

    Migaleh ani tefach u'michase ani t'fachayim; v'dai lichakima b'rimiza. :)

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  2. Along the same lines of your post, Hashem granted a special Brit shalom for Pinchas whose Kehuna was assured after slaying Zimri and Kazbi.

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  3. I once heard an explanation that this act by the Leviyim was a "tiqqun" for their attack of the people of Shechem. Because in this instance they channelled their passion toward qiddush Hashem, they merited to serve in the Miqdash.

    By contrast, Shimon never redirected his aggressive energy to a higher purpose, so his shevet wasn't blessed by Moshe and for his shevet, being dispersed in Israel was a curse rather than a sign of distinction - it was, as it were, a preventive measure designed to stand in the way of future violent uprisings(as in "a union divided cannot stand").

    The dispersion of the Leviyim in special cities, on the other hand, was transformed into a blessing - it reflected their higher status.

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  4. That made me think of an intersting point. Moshe did not get the status of Kohen, which went to his brother. Moshe had slayed someone -- the Mitzri. We don't hear of Aharon causing anyone's death. So perhaps there is some connection to the concept you advance.

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  5. This fits in well with Ariella's reference to Zimri - the conflict between a zealous Levi (Pinchas) and a rebellious and aggressive Shimonite (Zimri) manifests itself in another priestly covenant for the Levi.

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  6. Oh, I should have used Q's . Perhaps, I should write Qohen. ;-) Hey, it's still Adar!

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  7. Q is only for Quf; K is for Kaf. Sorry, Sephardic/Arabic/Persian influence there.

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  8. I cannot remember the details offhand (and have no seforim with me now), but IIRC the Zohar says that Pinchas had to specifically be designated a Kohen because he would have been de facto pasul for having killed Zimri, exactly fitting the halacha that I am basing my post on. R' Ovadya Yosef has a tshuvah on this issue with respect to an Israeli solider who is a kohen and must kill in the line of duty - can he still duchan.
    As for why Moshe was not a kohen, Rashi way back in parshas shmos writes that this was a punishment for moshe's reluctance to assume his role - see Rashi on "halo ahron *halevi* yotzei likrasecha".

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  9. Not to belabor the q point, but why the distinction between kuf and kaf. I believe the q's are sprinkled quite liberally by Steg. And isn't Kiryat Arba sometimes written with a Q? I was also thinking of the qarmine qow featured this week.

    As I told the Divre Chaim, I know that Rashi, I was suggesting a possible additional consideration.

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  10. Anonymous11:45 PM

    I have a better question why Hashems original idea was to kill everyone and to start over with Moshe why the Leviem did nothing?

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  11. Ariella, Quf is a guttural "K", whereas Kaf is the regular "K" sound we are familiar with in English.

    "Kiryat Arba" is spelled with a "Quf", which explains "Qiryat Arba".

    I am not sure about Steg's method, but I would venture a guess that he follows this principle as well.

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  12. Very intersting. But do you have ways to represent differences in the sound of an aleph and an ayin?

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