The Appointment of the Levites

May 31, 2015

וַיְדַבֵּר יְהֹוָה אֶל־מֹשֶׁה לֵּאמֹר׃

Hashem spoke to Moshe, saying:

Numbers 8:1

וְשֵׁרֵת אֶת־אֶחָיו בְּאֹהֶל מוֹעֵד לִשְׁמֹר מִשְׁמֶרֶת וַעֲבֹדָה לֹא יַעֲבֹד כָּכָה תַּעֲשֶׂה לַלְוִיִּם בְּמִשְׁמְרֹתָם׃

They may assist their brother Leviim at the Tent of Meeting by standing guard, but they shall perform no labor. Thus you shall deal with the Leviim in regard to their duties.

Numbers 8:26

Our portion begins with God instructing Aaron, via Moses, to kindle the Menorah lamp in the Tabernacle so that each light points towards the face of the Menorah. The Menorah itself, we are reminded, is hammered from a single piece of gold.


The Israel Bible points out the connection between Aaron and the story of Chanukkah, hundreds of years later. When the Syrian-Greeks sought to wipe out Judaism in the Holy Land, the Maccabees fought back. Miraculously defeating an enemy who greatly outnumbered them, the Maccabees, who were of priestly descent, searched high and low for pure olive oil with which to light the Menorah their ancestor, Aaron, was commanded to light daily. Only one small vial, containing enough oil to burn for one day, remained, but it would take eight days to procure more. The Maccabees lit the lamp regardless, and another miracle occurred. The oil continued to burn all eight days! Thus, Jews worldwide light Chanukkah candles for eight days each year in commemoration.


The next 22 verses detail the sanctification of the Levites for their work. As mentioned earlier in the portion of Bamidbar (see Numbers 3:40-51), God selected the Levites to replace the firstborn sons in His service in the Tabernacle. Now, He describes the ceremony of their appointment.


For purification, they are to be sprinkled with purifying water and shaved, and their clothes are to be immersed. They must bring two bulls as offerings, and stand before the Tent of Meeting. The Israelites are to lean their hands upon the Levites and then Aaron is to wave the Levites as a wave offering. The Levites, in turn, place their hands upon the bulls, which are then brought as a sin offering and elevation offering respectively. The Torah relates that the dedication of the Levites is carried out as commanded.


God also dictates that the Levites serve in a supporting role in the Tabernacle from the age of 25 to 50. However, the Levites must not perform the work which is commanded to the priests.


Virtual Classroom Discussion

What do you think the laying of hands on the Levites represents?

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