Torah Thoughts for Today
Thursday, January 22, 2004
#14: Levi’s Legacy: The Ultimate Holy Men
Levi’s Legacy: The Ultimate Holy Men

(Related to the Torah portion of VaEra (“Appeared”), read in synagogue. Exodus, Chapter 6, verse 2 – Chapter 9, verse 15. English text and commentary at
Dedicated to my parents.)

Secular society has its superstars (also known as “VIPs”): singers, actors, billionaires, politicians, sports heroes, authors, generals and more! In this week’s Torah portion we see two of its own greatest stars Moses and Pharaoh (one good, one a villain) go head to head to the tune of unheard of miracles and plagues. (Oh yes, I believe there was once a movie about this called the Ten Commandments. On screen it was powerful. On TV it lacks its dramatic effect, but it’s a start…maybe)

There is also another kind of hero, the so-called “SILENT HERO” that is always part of an important drama. In the case of the Exodus, it is AARON , “AHARON” in Hebrew, who fills the shoes of both “second in command” and “spokesman” for his brother Moses, even though Moses is his junior. As the narrative unfolds over time, it will be Aaron who will eventually supercede Moses when God appoints Aaron and his descendants as the PERMANENT PRIESTHOOD, the “KOHANIM”, which in Hebrew means, “THE ONES WHO SERVE (GOD)”. Thus a “KOHEN”, also spelled “COHEN”, “KAHAN”, or “KAGAN”, means “SOMEONE WHO SERVES (GOD)”. “To serve” in Hebrew is “LeChaHen”. They are the designated “SERVERS” to do God’s “SERVICE” in the Temple as well as perform other religious functions such as collect the TITHES and serve as the TEACHERS of the Torah.

The “KOHANIM” – “PRIESTS”, could only be from the DIRECT BIOLOGICAL FAMILY of AARON. Only they could be the ones to undertake and perform ALL the functions within the Temple. It was from them that one was chosen to be the HIGH PRIEST – “KOHEN GADOL”, and he would then have the main job of performing the various functions needed on the Day of Atonement, as described in Leviticus, Chapter 16.

There were lesser duties in the Temple connected to religious life that a related group called the “LEVI-IM” – LEVITES performed and their function was to assist with the duties of their cousins the “KOHANIM” – “PRIESTS”. The Hebrew word “LEVI” or “LEVY” means “TO ACCOMPANY”, or “COME ALONG”, as they were the ones to “accompany” the priests in all their duties. In Hebrew, for example, a funeral is called a “LEVAYA” which literally means an “ACCOMPANIMENT” since it is important to “accompany” the deceased to the grave during the funeral “procession” – “LEVAYA”. Interestingly, there is a teaching in the Zohar (the classic text of Jewish mysticism) that when Leah gave birth to her third son Levi, she knew that Jacob would eventually “ACCOMPANY” or “JOIN” her, and NOT Rachel, in burial in Hebron together for eternity. [1] By the way, a KOHEN, is specifically commanded to keep a distance AWAY from a dead body as it can cause spiritual defilement – “TUMAH”, as instructed in Leviticus, Chapter 21, so they basically cannot attend funerals except when it’s a direct family member as allowed by the Torah.


The question arises, how did this come to be?
Or in current lingo “WHAT OR WHO IS THE BIG KAHUNA???” (“KAHUNA” as coming from “KOHEN”! Wow what a great colloquialism!)
Then again, who needs priests, what’s wrong with just an “egalitarian society” with a secular outlook where there are NO priests?
(“Superstars” yes, but no pesky “priests” or “clergy” is a common attitude, right?)
What’s so special about being a “priest” in any case?
How is it different to a “king”, a “judge”, a “scholar”, or a “rabbi”?
What is it about Levi, a member of Jacob’s Twelve Sons that gives his descendants the honors of performing all subsequent priestly functions till the end of time?
Later on, how and why does Aaron deserve to obtain the duties and blessings of permanent PRIESTHOOD to the exclusion of everyone else?
Where does Moses fit into the scheme of things as he seems to share and move in and out of various leadership functions, as when inducting his brother into the priesthood, yet he is ultimately viewed as a LEVITE and not a KOHEN – why is that?

Is it really true that secular society has no “priests”? Maybe not in a religious sense, but there are many others who fill the void. Let’s look at ourselves in the “here and now” for a moment. The scientific and commercial wizards behind the secular mass media of TV, movies, videos, CDs, DVDs, theater, radio, newspapers, magazines and the Internet generate what is essentially an artificial interest in personalities and events that have almost nothing to do with the realities and needs of our daily lives and existence. The tiniest and silliest acts of the superstars anointed by the mass media are flashed before us with dizzying determination at the whim of the invisible manipulators of the mass media’s managers of mass marketing hypnosis:

It may be a movie about magic or real-life major crime, a staged performance or dumb act, an off-the-cuff remark or “press releases”, deliberate nudity or lewd acts caught on private cameras, press interviews or intimate revelations, genuine scandals or invasions of the superstars’ privacy that we the public will have to know about it if we “stay tuned”, “must see” and “must read”, or “log on” to the medium of the moment in our lives for just a few minutes or hours. These are just the “facts of life” as we live in the ultra modern age.

All the clatter and chatter surrounding us, dangerously drowns out any other sounds and sights that may be attempting to gain our attention. What has actually happened here? A new class of “VIP’s” –“VERY IMPORTANT PEOPLE” surrounds us. Sometimes they are called the “taste-meisters”, “spin-doctors”, “mavens”, “trend-setters” who in fact have been self-appointed and anointed as the de facto and even de jure “PRIESTS” of “High & Low Culture”. Modern “Power-brokers” and “King Makers” rule studios and media “empires” and financial “wizards” have all the modern-day secular “equivalents” of the old-time “kings” and “priests”, just that they worship at different “altars”, to say the least.

Napoleon is reputed to once have said that you cannot destroy the “nobility”. If you kill out one class, then the group below them takes over and so forth. That is what has happened. The religious clergy has been replaced by secular schools of “political correctness” and “social pressures”. The old definitions of Torah and religion-based leadership have been replaced with high flying whoppers like: Media “MOGULS”; Corporate “TITANS”; Business “MASTERMINDS”; Financial “POWERHOUSES”; Theater “LEGENDS”; Movie “GODDESSES”; Pop “IDOLS”; Musical “KINGS”; Beauty “QUEENS”; Culture “HIGH PRIESTS”; Sports “GIANTS”; Advertising “GURUS”; Artistic “ANGELS”; Computer “MASTERMINDS”; Internet “WUNDERKINDS”; Math “GENIUSES”; Political “KINGMAKERS”…all in recognition of, and giving high praise to the secular and materialistic “royalty” and “priesthood” of the modern age.

One of the mysterious powers of Judaism is that it is able to break through the roar of the outside world for its adherents if they only keep their eyes and ears just a little bit open. Ironically, most Jews live among people who themselves know of the Bible’s existence.
The contents, characters, values and morality of the Jewish Torah are well know via the Bible to billions of people.

When entering into the world of Torah (“Bible”, which comes from the Greek word for “BOOK”, as in “BIBLIography”), we are exposed to a whole range of superstars, both heroes and villains, male as well as female that have endured for more than four thousand years. One thousand years from now will anyone know who the greatest movie or sporting heroes of today were? Or will people still be learning from the likes of a Moses and Aaron, and the mistakes and fate of a Pharaoh and his failed pyramids? Think about it! In the United States of America in particular, the motto “In God We Trust” has been on coins and notes starting from the mid 1800s revealing the extent of Biblical beliefs among the people, even though it may be vehemently opposed, with arguments that it breaks the “separation between church and state”.

In contrast, a proclamation on January 15th 1981 marking the change of Presidents, the last Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson [1902-1994] said:“The first and foremost duty is to strengthen the basis of our very existence. That basis is stated on every dollar bill printed in the U.S.A., and is the foundation upon which this country was born – ‘In God We Trust’…Trust, however, has a meaning which is more profound than mere belief…We should believe that God is not some remote Being, removed and aloof from his creations, but that every detail of our lives can be safely entrusted to God…Separation between religion and state is not, nor ever was, meant to imply antagonism, or even indifference, to religion.” [2]

It is probably some sort of hidden miracle that religion has not been stomped out of America and then the void flooded with the mostly computer-generated and encased contents of the Post- Industrial Information and Leisure Age entirely. Many, many people and Jews have a yearning for words of Torah and do not rest until their hunger and thirst for this most ancient of Divine Information is learned, understood, and then practiced.

Many don’t realize that the Torah is not just a book for a religious belief, but it is also built on deeply complex rules of REASON and LOGIC. Thus the opening scenes of Genesis are not just a “mythical” moralistic tale about the first man and woman’s creation, and their trials and tribulations. What happens to Adam and Eve is also the AXIOMATIC foundation of a complex drama that will follow not just spiritual rules, but also RULES OF LOGIC !

Adam was created as an individual on the sixth day of Creation in order to RULE over the entire world that God had made: “…Fill the land and CONQUER it. DOMINATE the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, and every beast that walks the land.” (Genesis, Chapter 1, verse 28). Adam was also created to SERVE God, as Jewish thought teaches: “Man was created for the purpose of DELIGHTING in God” (“Lo Nivra HaAdam Ela LehitAneg Bashem”). Adam was also required to use his faculties of human intelligence to JUDGE right from wrong, and to TEACH this to all the creatures of the Earth.

Thus Adam was an Earthly KING, PRIEST, and JUDGE of the World MIRRORING God’s various ROLES ABOVE! These very exalted positions are all FACETS of one WHOLE. Each role was a way for God’s “KEDUSHAH” – “HOLINESS” to be filtered into the world. (Each person has within themselves these functions that they must carry out on several fronts and at various times in the day and in life over-all.)

Adam failed in his mission, when he followed his wife in disobeying God’s command NOT to eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, and then a historical process is set in motion to re-create that unit which will be able to perform all of Adam’s lost opportunities. Eventually it would be Jacob’s sons, the Children of Israel who strive to be the actualization of the “ADAM”, who once again make the kind of GOVERNMENT, PRIESTHOOD, and JUSTICE SYSTEM based on “KEDUSHAH” – HOLINESS possible.

It was Jacob’s biological firstborn son REUBEN from Leah who actually could have had the chance to combine all three roles within himself. But because of a very puzzling episode where following the death of Rachel he got involved with his father’s private affairs by trying to make sure that Jacob would make his primary residence with Leah by moving Jacob’s bed to Leah’s tent, whereas Jacob moved in with Bilhah, Rachel’s Handmaid (and also one of Jacob’s four wives) instead. This is what causes Jacob to “demote” Reuben who loses any firstborn claims he may have been entitled to. Government and Justice are given over to Joseph and Judah, and the PRIESTHOOD is given to Levi.

Yet many years later, when the Nation of Israel is being formed in Egypt and in the forty years in the wilderness, it is Moses who is then given a chance to combine all three functions yet again into his own personality. Over the course of his lifetime he does indeed fulfill the roles of HIGH PRIEST, KING, JUDGE, and GENERAL. Yet at the end, he is referred to in Judaism as “RABBI” – “MOSHE RABBEINU” – Moses Our TEACHER. According to Rabbi Joseph Soloveichik: “ ‘Moshe Rabbeinu’ did not require his appointment to be sanctioned by the Children of Israel. His inner personality anointed him and sanctioned his roles as HIGH PRIEST, KING, JUDGE, and TEACHER.”[3]

There is a beautiful liturgical poem, called “AMITZ KOACH” – “VIGOROUSLY STRONG ONE” that we recite during the “MUSAF” – “ADDITIONAL” Prayer Service on the holiest day in Judaism, the “YOM KIPPUR” – DAY OF ATONEMENT, reputedly authored by Rabbi Meshullam of Lucca, (Italy, c.950 – 1020, Mainz, Germany), that describes the progression of God’s mandate for the world from the time of creation directly to the times when the Jewish Temple stood in Jerusalem and the appointed priests performed their duties for the Atonement of Israel on Yom Kippur:

An especially evocative high note is reached when we read in the “MACHZOR” – Holiday Prayer Book, written poetically: “The beloved [Abraham] came from across [the river in Ur of the Chaldees] to make You known in the world, the passionate love of his old age [Isaac] he brought up to You as a burnt-offering. Like perfect sheep, the perfect man [Jacob] was chosen, when he longed to dwell in the tents [of Torah study] and was drawn after You; from his loins you drew worthy, beautiful offspring [the Twelve Tribes], each a seed of truth without impurity. To serve You, You desired Levi, Your most devout man, to designate from his stock one sanctified as holy of holies [this was Aaron, whose offspring became the “KOHANIM” within the Tribe of Levi], to bind the head-plate of holiness and don the ‘Urim [V’Tumim’ – ‘Lightings and Perfections’] to sit in glory within [the Temple] for seven days. The steadfast faithful, a week before the Tenth [of Tishrei – the Yom Kippur – Day of Atonement], would segregate the leading Kohen [-Gadol – High Priest], according to the regulation [of the Torah] of the Inauguration service [before the Festival]” [4].

[The GOLDEN HEAD-PLATE was inscribed with “Holy Unto God”, and the “Urim V’Tumim” – “Lightings and Perfections”, which were either on or within the Breast-plate adorned with twelve shining Jewels, and had the Secret Name of God written on Parchment slipped into it and served as a Divine Oracle transmitting Divine Messages: “Aaron will thus carry the names of Israel’s sons on the ‘Decision Breastplate’ - ‘CHOSHEN HAMISHPAT’ over his heart when he comes into the sanctuary. It shall be a constant remembrance before God. Place the ‘Urim and Tumim’ – ‘Lightings and Perfections’ – Divine Names, in the ‘Decision Breastplate’ – ‘CHOSHEN HAMISHPAT’, and they shall be over Aaron’s heart when he comes before God. Aaron will then carry the Decision-Making device for the Israelites before God.” (Exodus, Chapter 28, vs. 29-30).] [5]

It is during this prayer that even today, traditional congregations bow down on the floor three times as in ancient times because it deals with the “KOHEN GADOL” – “HIGH PRIEST” pronouncing God’s Name as he performed the service. As in ancient times when they heard God’s name they would fall down and prostrate themselves in the Temple courtyards. Only the “KOHEN GADOL” – HIGH PRIEST had the privilege and authority to pronounce God’s Holy Name, the Tetragrammaton.

Here is a wonderful introduction and application of the general subject from the popular lecturer Rabbi Berel Wein http://torah.org/learning/rabbiwein/5761/shemos.html Rabbi Wein is also a US attorney and historian. He writes a weekly column for the Jerusalem Post. He heads the Destiny Foundation http://rabbiwein.com/ :

“Moses and Aharon, the first ‘kohanim’, were the LEADERS of Israel and it is through their hands that the deliverance from Egyptian bondage was achieved. We all know that being a ‘kohen’ or a ‘Levi’ is a matter of Jewish patrilineal (who your father is) descent. But nevertheless, there is a clearer and much more universal definition of being a member of this group that the Torah provides, and that definition includes all of us, in fact, every human being on earth.”

“Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon, Moses MAIMONIDES [1135-1204], in his ‘Mishna Torah’ (his masterwork), at the end of ‘Hilchot Shmita V'Yovel’ (Sabbatical and Jubilee laws), states: ‘What differentiated the tribe of Levi...was that they were designated and separated from the others in order to devote themselves to the SERVICE of God, to TEACH God's righteous ways and just statutes to the many...Therefore, they were held apart from worldly ways and mundane tasks; they did not participate in the battles of war; they did not inherit or acquire for themselves land. Rather, they were God's army... and the Blessed One sustained them for it is written ‘I am your share and your inheritance.’ ”

“ ‘And this is true not only for the tribe of Levi exclusively, but for every human being that enters this world's life whose spirit moves one and one understands of one's own knowledge and will that one wishes to be apart and to stand before the Lord and serve and obey Him, to know God and to walk righteously as the Creator intended; to remove from one's neck the yoke of the many schemes that man pursues - such a person is sanctified and is holy of holies. The Lord will be that person's share and inheritance forever and the Lord will provide for this holy person in this physical world as well so that the person will be able to have that which is sufficient for life, as the Lord so provided for the ‘kohanim’ and ‘Leviim’.”

“This most powerful statement contains within it the essence of the Jewish worldview of life and its purpose. Rambam (MAIMONIDES) declares therein: ‘everyone can be a Levi!’ That was the hard lesson of Egyptian bondage - namely, that the way for a Jew to escape the physical bondage of society that otherwise engulfs us is to be a ‘Levi’. It is because of this insight, that Moses and Aharon become the leaders of Israel and the redeemers and role models for all generations of Jews.” [6]

I found an excellent elaboration by Rabbi Moshe Heigh at http://kicc.org/shmos.html dealing with the question of whether MOSES WAS A “KOHEN” OR A LEVI?” and the changes of his status. He uses classical Talmudical reasoning, which is worth following:

“Let us begin with the basics. What is a ‘Levi’, and what is a ‘kohen’? It is undisputed that anyone from the family of Levi son of Jacob is considered a Levi. That includes all descendants of Levi's three sons: Gershon, Kehat, and Merari. Moses and his brother Aharon were obviously ‘Levi'im’ – Levites, since their father was Amram, their grandfather was Kehat, and their great-grandfather was Levi himself. However, anyone who descends from Aharon himself (who is, of course, from the Tribe of Levi) has an additional, exalted status - that of a ‘kohen’ –‘PRIEST’. The distinction between these two groups is well known. ‘Kohanim’ – Priests, have greater privileges and responsibilities when it comes to their service in the ‘Mishkan’ – Tabernacle, and ‘Bait Hamikdash’ – ‘Temple’, plus in other areas of Jewish life. ‘Levi'im’ –Levites also serve in a capacity superior to the regular Israelites, but their rank is not the same as that of the ‘kohanim’. As you see, every ‘kohen’ is a Levi with an added dimension of sanctity –‘KEDUSHAH’.”[7]

Very surprisingly, Moses actually LOST the opportunity to be the one from whom all “KOHANIM” – Priests would descend:

“When informed that he was the LEADER chosen to rescue the Children of Israel from the bondage of Egypt, Moses objected to taking on such a massive responsibility. After Moses persisted in his refusal, we are told that God became angry at him (Exodus, Chapter 4, verse 14). ‘Isn't it true that Aharon, your brother THE LEVI - I know that he surely has the ability to speak, and he can eloquently state your case to Pharaoh, so do not worry about taking the Children of Israel out of Egypt!"

“Do you notice the unusual terminology employed by God? In speaking to Moses about his brother, God refers to Aharon as ‘THE LEVI’. What is the significance of this? The Gemara (Talmud) Zevachim p.102 (a) analyzes this declaration in the following manner, and it impacts our discussion in a certain way. The issue is: who was originally supposed to father the kohanim?”

“Rabbi Shimon ben Yochai (a great sage from the Talmud) remarks that there is a punishment stated here. Moses is being told that he was originally SUPPOSED to be the progenitor of all kohanim. From him was supposed to emanate that special family of ‘Levi'im’, those who would enter the inner sanctum of God’s house, the Temple. From him, kohanim were supposed to descend - those who would receive the first ‘aliyah’ (called up) for reading of the Torah, those who would lead ‘bentching’ (Grace after meals), those who would recite ‘Birchat Kohanim’ (Priestly Blessings). But since Moses so adamantly resisted the task of delivering the Children of Israel from their vicious oppressors, the Egyptians, the privilege was moved from Moses to Aharon. How is this derived? It is indicated by God’s choice of words when He communicated with Moses. ‘Aharon your brother, THE LEVI’ means that Aharon your brother was supposed to be ONLY a Levi, and you, Moses, were supposed to father the elite family of kohanim. Now that you have resisted the holy task of redeeming the Jews, Aharon will be the father of the kohanim. You, Moshe, will be a ‘regular’ Levi.” [8]

So Aaron is blessed and is truly naturally endowed with special qualities that allow him to receive the mantle of the permanent priesthood. Interestingly, the Hebrew letters of his name: “A”, “H”, “R”, “N”, also spell “HA-ARON”- “THE ARK”, meaning “The HOLY Ark Of the COVENANT” wherein were kept the Ten Commandments and placed in the Temple’s Holy of Holies. The association is thus that “AHRON” the High Priest is also an embodiment of THE ARK – “HA-ARON”, a beautiful and poignant living metaphor for sublime holiness within a holy man.

There is a famous teaching in the Ethics of the Fathers – “Pirkei Avot” of the Mishna (part of the Talmud) that describes Aaron not as a “KOHEN” – Priest, but as someone who EXCELLS AT HUMAN RELATIONSHIPS:

“HILLEL SAYS: BE AMONG THE DISCIPLES OF AARON, LOVING PEACE AND PURSUING PEACE, LOVING PEOPLE, AND BRINGING THEM CLOSER TO TORAH,” and as the Artscroll commentary mentions, “In Talmudic literature Aaron is described as the great peacemaker who went to any ends to make peace between man and wife and between feuding Jews” [9]

Not only is he good at helping people mend fences amongst each other, he is the ultimate healer of ruptured relationships between the people and God. This is manifested at the horrendous episode when the Children of Israel stooped to worship a Golden Calf, Aaron takes on the literal death-defying job of “crisis management and intervention” trying to hold things off as long as possible and attempting to explain to Moses, and by association to God: “Moses said to Aaron, ‘What did the people do to you that you allowed them to commit such a great sin?’ ‘Do not be angry, my lord,’ replied Aaron, ‘but you must realize that the people have bad tendencies…’ Moses realized that the people had actually been restrained. Aaron had restrained them, doing only a small part of what the outspoken ones had demanded.” (Exodus, Chapter 32, vs. 21 – 25.) [10]

Thus the essential qualities of the great priests is revealed, they have the capacity to still the flames of wrath that may burn against them from Above, and bring about a state of PEACE between God and His people. This is the core purpose of what they did in the Temple when it stood, and what the service of Yom Kippur – Day of Atonement is all about. Tragically, later in history, when the priesthood as well as the other public and religious institutions became corrupt, the ancient Kingdoms of Israel and Judea were destroyed and the people sent into exile to “re-sensitize” and “prepare” them for a Final Redemption where the work of the Priests, Judges and Kings can be re-instituted once again with the building of the Third and last Jewish Holy Temple in Jerusalem.

This is a good moment to examine the origins of LEVI, the son of Leah and Jacob. When LEVI was born Leah said: “ ‘NOW MY HUSBAND WILL BECOME ATTACHED (‘LAVAH’) (or ‘INDEBTED’) TO ME’, SHE SAID, ‘BECAUSE I HAVE GIVEN HIM THREE SONS.’ THEREFORE HE NAMED THE CHILD LEVI.” (Genesis, Chapter 29, verse 34.) [11]

There is a question as to who the “HE” is who named Levi? Some classical commentators say it was Jacob who named him and thereby validated Leah’s words. Others say it was God Himself that named Levi, because his offspring would be “escorted” – (“Levayah” concept) by Priestly gifts, such as tithes, in the future. The Medrashim (Oral Law Teachings) note the name Levi also denotes “LENDING”, (a “HALVA-AH” is a loan, and a “malveh” is lender, a “loveh” is a borrower) because Levi was destined to “LEND” his sons to the service of their Heavenly Father. The RADAK (Rabbi David Kimchi [1160-1235]) explains: “Jacob named him in accordance with Leah’s wish because he rejoiced in the birth of Levi. It may also be that Jacob saw prophetically that Levi’s offspring would be servants of God and teachers of Torah, and as such, would be ATTACHED to God.” [12]

Thus Levi is naturally endowed with extraordinary qualities and the blessings that come with them. But there is a very strong DUALITY to Levi, as he is the root of both Aaron’s peaceful and peace-making nature, and at the same time he is also the root for another FIERY side to the priests. This is manifested in the episode when Dinah, Jacob’s daughter is abducted and raped and Levi joins with Simon in killing the abductors after they had offered to actually circumcise themselves: “On the third day, when the people were in agony (from circumcision), two of Jacob’s sons, Simon and Levi, Dinah’s brothers, took up their swords. They came to the city without arousing suspicion and killed every male…and took Dinah from Shechem’s house…and plundered the city that had defiled their sister…Jacob said to Simon and Levi, ‘You have gotten me in trouble…’, ‘Should he have been allowed to treat our sister like a prostitute?’ they replied.” (Genesis, Chapter 34, vs. 25-31) [13] For this act, Levi is eventually denied any ownership of land in the Land of Israel and is the only tribe without a tribal portion, as there is a fear they may use it as a territorial base and unite in war against the others. Yet again, in one of the most dramatic scenes in the Torah, Aaron’s grandson publicly assassinates one the princes, Zimri from the tribe of Simon who had succumbed to the lures of Midianite seduction and was flaunting a sexual relationship with a Midianite woman Kozbi, in the presence of Moses and the Israelite community. For this act of “ZEALOTRY” – “KANA-UT” (from the Hebrew for “KINAH”- Jealousy [on behalf of God]) Pinchas is guaranteed that the Priesthood shall surely run through his own family forever!:

“…An Israelite brought forth a Midianite woman …When Pinchas, a son of Elazar and a grandson of Aaron the priest, saw this, he rose up…and took a spear in his hand…and ran them through, [driving the spear] through the Israelite man and the woman’s groin. With that the plague stopped…God spoke to Moses saying, ‘Pinchas a son of Elazar and grandson of Aaron the priest was the one who zealously took up My cause among the Israelites and turned My anger away from them…tell him that I have given him My covenant of peace. This shall imply a covenant of eternal priesthood to him and his descendants after him. It is given to him because he zealously took up God’s cause and made atonement for the Israelites.’” (Numbers, Chapter 25.) [14] Hence there is a well-known dictum in Torah thought: “KOHANIM ZERIZIM HEM” – “THE PRIESTS ARE EXTREMELY QUICK TO ACT” on behalf of Godly Torah causes, and that is why they could be VERY DANGEROUS if they should ever cut loose from these moorings! Ask around, and find out which of your friends is a “COHEN” and you’ll probably see in them “hot-blooded” impulses inclined to take action, to think and act quickly.

According to classical Medrashim, Oral Law Teachings, the mysterious and wrathful PROPHET ELIJAH – “ELIYAHU HANAVI”, is none other than Pinchas.

Elijah is the one in the Book of Kings who challenges the false prophets of Ba’al to prove the power of their idol, and when they fail he destroys them: “Elijah said to them (Israelites), ‘Seize the prophets of Ba’al! Let none of them escape!’ So they seized them. Elijah took them down to the Kishon Brook and slaughtered them there.” (I KINGS, Chapter 18, verse 40). He is famous for his challenge to the Israelites: “Elijah approached all the people and said: ‘How long will you dance between two opinions? If God is the God, follow him! And if the Ba’al is it, go after it!’” (I KINGS, Chapter 18, verse 21).

He disdains this world and attains immortality. He is the only person in the TANACH (The Bible after the Five Books of Moses) that ascends to Heaven in a chariot whilst still alive (probably this is where the Moslems got their un-original idea from about Mohamed doing the same): “ It happened when God took Elijah up to Heaven in a whirlwind…[Elijah] said [I swear] as God lives and by your life that I shall not leave you [his disciple Elisha]…as they were talking and conversing, behold a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and separated between the two of them, and Elijah ascended to Heaven in the whirlwind. Elisha was watching and shouting, ‘Father! Father! Israel’s chariot and horsemen!’(‘AVI, AVI, RECHEV YISRAEL UFARASHAV’) And then he saw him no more.” (II KINGS, Chapter 2.) Such is the awesome power and privilege of the true Jewish Holy Men such as Elijah the Prophet.

No need at all for the totally silly and voluntarily self-hallucinatory, yet very EXPENSIVE, “Harry Potter”, “Star Wars”, or “Lord of the Rings” and other “animated” human creations and marvels following in the “traditions” of made to order commercially driven myths and fables created in movie studios such as “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” or the “Wizard of Oz”, with books and movies created by the “priests” of the false modern “Ba’als” of print or celluloid and digital technology. Yet hundreds of millions of people “buy into” these modern-day “false gods” at the same time that they dismiss the reliable beliefs of Judaism! Where is the logic? Where is the meaning? Where will it end?

Judaism’s Elijah is the constant on-going tireless prophet who returns to do miracles according to Judaism, and he is known as the “Angel of the Covenant” –“MALACH HABRIT”, and is actually accorded a chair to “sit on” at every circumcision. Jews also traditionally pour an extra “fifth” cup of wine for Elijah at each Passover Seder-Meal in remembrance and anticipation of Elijah’s arrival as part of God’s promise to redeem the Jewish People from their exile and bondage to alien peoples and cultures (exchanging the gentiles’ idolatrous, adulated, and adulterous, synthetic “superstars” for the Torah’s visions and blessings for true and sincere Holy People).

Thus, Adam-Abraham-Isaac-Jacob (Israel)-Levi-Aaron-Elazar-Pinchas-Elijah are ALWAYS with us in a variety of ways.

During any age, for example, a great scholar may merit the appearance of Elijah to be taught great things in Torah. The great legalist and author of the Code of Jewish Law – “SHULCHAN ARUCH”, Rabbi Joseph Karo [Egypt and Israel, 1488-1575] wrote a book “MAGID MESHARIM” all about how Elijah came to him and taught him sublime Torah. This is called the state of “GILUI ELIYAHU” – “REVELATIONS OF ELIJAH”. Like-wise for great scholars such as the RAMCHAL, Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto [Italy and Israel, 1707-1746], and the famous scholar named ELIJAH Ben Shlomo Kramer [Lithuania, 1720-1797] of Vilna, the “VILNA GAON” – “GENIUS’, all pillars of Torah scholarship, as well as many others, all report the fact that they experienced “GILUI ELIYAHU” –“Revelation/s of Elijah”, and that Elijah taught them great wisdom and secrets of Torah emanating from higher levels of Godliness.

Elijah will also be the one to herald and announce the arrival of the Jewish Messiah, and it is about Elijah’s return that the very last words of the Books of the Prophets ends: “For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the wicked people and all the evildoers will be like straw; and that coming day will burn them up, says God, Master of Legions, so that it will not leave them a root or branch…Remember the Torah of Moses My servant, which I commanded him at Horeb [Mount Sinai, where the Ten Commandments were given] for all Israel, its decrees and its statutes…Behold, I send you ELIJAH THE PROPHET before the coming of the great and awesome day of God. And he will turn back [to God] the hearts of fathers with their sons and the hearts of sons with their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with utter destruction.” (Malachi, Chapter 3, vs. 19 – 23.) [15]

On a very deep level, Rabbi Mordechai Rosen at http://www.shemayisrael.co.il/parsha/d'vrei/archives/pinchas.htm teaches the following from the “Kedushat Halevi”- Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev [Poland and Ukraine, 1740-1810]:

“The Torah tell us that Zimri ben Salu took a Princess from Midian and was intimate with her in front of the Nation. Pinchas was enraged by what he saw and took a sword and killed him. The Talmud tells us that Pinchas was actually Elijah the Prophet –‘Eliyahu Hanavi.’”

“Rabbi Yitzchak Luria [Egypt and Israel, 1534-1572], (the great Kabbalist known as the ‘Ari HaKadosh’ – The Holy ‘ARI’ (his initials, which also mean ‘lion’) explains that Pinchas was a REINCARNATION of CAIN, Adam’s oldest son who had killed his brother ABEL. Now this is hard to understand. That Pinchas - a ‘Tzaddik’- Righteous Person, who felt ‘kinah’- Jealousy for God and acted upon it, is either Elijah in person or reincarnation may make sense. But how and why could he be a reincarnation of Cain? A man who refused to bring the best of his crops as an offering? A man who murdered his brother and tried to hide it - this is the man who is reincarnated as Elijah? How can we explain this?”

“Let's look at Cain, whose sin was murder. Cain was his father's eldest, which made him a Kohen, as in those times the eldest served as the Priests as well. When God told him that the blood of his brother was screaming from the ground, he answered ‘Hashomer Achee Anochi?’ –‘Am I my brother's keeper?’”

“Now let us look at Pinchas and Elijah. Pinchas, a Kohen, took Cain’s sin of murder and turned it into a ‘mitzvah’ – a moral imperative-commandment. This was the first ‘tikun’ –RECTIFICATION , (which is why there is reincarnation at all according to Judaism). The second ‘tikun’ – RECTIFICATION will come at the time of the ‘Geulah’ –Final Redemption (at the End of Time) when Elijah will announce the coming of the Jewish Messiah. Cain said ‘Hashomer Achee Anochi?’ – ‘Am I my brother’s keeper?’ - we usually read it as a question. But it wasn't - it was a statement – ‘I am my brother's keeper’.”

“Pinchas took responsibility for his brother's actions and obliterated a blight on the Nation. At a ‘brit’- circumcision we have ‘Kiseh Eliyahu’ - a special seat for Eliyahu- Elijah. This is because at a circumcision, we cut a part of the body that is later buried in the ground - to make up for the blood of Abel that called out for justice.”

“Everything happens in stages - a ‘neshama’ –SOUL, could not go from Cain to being ‘Eliyahu Hanavi’- Elijah the Prophet. First he became Pinchas and was ‘metaken’- RECTIFIED the sin of murder by eliminating a truly wicked person such as Zimri the Prince and his partner Kozbi the Princess of Midian. Only then could Cain’s soul progress and become Elijah and be ‘metaken’ - RECTIFY the sin of spilling blood on the ground.” [16]. He achieves this by destroying the wicked prophets of Ba’al in ancient times, and begins the process of utterly destroying the genocidal AMALEKITE-Crusading-Hitlerian-Stalinist-Communist-Fascist-Racist-Holocaust-Intifada-Jihad-Terrorism-Mass murderers of the JEW-HATING ANTI-SEMITES at the End of Days. A big “job” indeed!

Moses too is a fighter and leader of men in battle. His powers are in fact invincible. Pharaoh and the Egyptians found out the hard way. So we see that coming from Levi are both inherent tender tendencies with the ability to sooth and make peace between both people and with God, yet simultaneously he also exudes a “take no hostages” mentality when aroused by atrocities committed against his fellow Children of Israel-The Jewish People. Throughout history, there have been times when the Jewish people were called to war and to defend themselves. When the regular kings failed, it was the Priests, such as the Hasmonean Maccabees at the time of the Greek invasions who instigated revolt and fought with the sword. At other times, as in the long exiles when Jews were wanderers they relied and lived by their peaceful impulses as they worshiped God in peace. The events of the past hundred years have caused the Jews to once again revert to the sword as well as strengthen the holy work of the priests, simultaneously.
Have a great Shabbat and please let me know what you think!
[1] Artscroll, English translation, Genesis Vol. I (b), p.1286
[2] The Rebbe: Changing the Tide of Education, 1982, pp. 234 – 235.
[3] Rabbi Joseph Soloveichik, http://shamash3.shamash.org/listarchives/mj-ravtorah/tzav.97.ravtorah.97
[4] Artscroll Yom Kippur – Day of Atonement Machzor – Prayer book, pp.557-559.
[5] The Living Torah, English translation, Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, p.427
[6] Rabbi Berel Wein, http://torah.org/learning/rabbiwein/5761/shemos.html
[7] Rabbi Moshe Heigh, http://kicc.org/shmos.html
[8] Ibid.
[9] Artscroll Siddur – Prayer book, with English translation, pp.546 - 548.
[10] The Living Torah, Ibid., p. 453.
[11] Ibid., p.139.
[12] Artscroll, Ibid., Genesis Vol. I (b), pp.1286 - 1287.
[13] The Living Torah, Ibid., p.165.
[14] Ibid, p.799.
[15] Artscroll Tanach-Bible, Stone Edition, English translation, p.1433.
[16] Rabbi Mordechai Rosen, http://www.shemayisrael.co.il/parsha/d'vrei/archives/pinchas.htm

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