Divrei Torah

The Divrei Torah in this section have been translated by Rav Reuven Ungar, Director of Alumni Affairs

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The House of Levi

By: Rav Yechezkel Yakovson

From the volume of Shmot and onwards, the tribe of Levi emerges as the most  dominant and influential of the tribes. The mantel of leadership is placed  upon the shoulders of Moshe, Aharon and Miraim- the children of Amram and  Yocheved from the House of Levi. Subsequent to the sin of the Golden Calf,  the entire Levite tribe replaces the first-born in regards to performing the  divine service. The verse in Parshat Zot HaBracha encourages the Levites to  instruct the Jewish People in the laws and teachings of the Torah.

This positive mission is difficult to reconcile with the harsh words of  criticism that Yaakov delivered to Shimon and Levi in Parshat Vayechi.  Yaakov referred to the violent natures of Shimon and Levi, cured their anger  and called for their dispersal amongst the various sections of the Jewish  People. Yet, within a short period of time the Levites have assumed the  leadership of the Jewish Nation!

Apparently, Levi paid careful attention to the words of rebuke from Yaakov.  Levi internalized the message. Yaakov remarked that Levi possesses the  quality of zealotry; a fire that rages within the recesses of his soul.  Until that period of time, this tendency was manifested in inappropriate  times and places (towards the inhabitants of Shchem, the mistreatment of  Yosef).

Once Levi became cognizant of this trait, he could utilize it for sacred  purposes. Levi accepted the criticism of his misuse of zealotry. Consequent  to this realization, enthusiasm (hitlahavut) and dedication have become the  hallmarks of the tribe of Levi. The zealotry that the Levites displayed to  counter the sin of the Golden Calf saved the Jewish People. What a sea  change in the attitude towards the Levites from the words of Yaakov in  Parshat Vayechi to the warm blessings of Moshe in Parshat Zot HaBracha!

This concept has relevance for us as well. People differ from each other in  their characters and tendencies. All of us contain dominant tendencies and  character traits (middot). Some middot are considered positive; others are  viewed as negative. Yet, they all have a place in the Service of Hashem.

Our initial task is to identify and become familiar with our particular  qualities and tendencies. Afterwards we must control, refine and direct our  energies towards Service of Hashem. This is the intention of the prayer “and  place our portion (chelkaynu- the specific qualitites of each individual) in  Your Torah”.


Categorized under: 1: Parshat Shavua > Shmot
Uploaded: 1/17/2006 1:39:25 PM