Friday, January 23, 2009

Levite Oddity At 3000 Feet

כ"ח טבת תשס"ט
Grael 29

Something is different about the Levites. Something is also different about Flight 1549.

In follow-up to my previous two entries, House Of Levi, Beit HaBechirah and Bringing Benevolence Into The Physical World, Rabbi Zvi Grumet writes regarding the tribe of Levi:

A careful reading of the first Parsha of Sefer Bemidbar Sinai points to a bizarre, startling and disturbing conclusion -Shevet Levei is not included in Bnai Yisrael. Let us take a look. In the beginning of the Perek, Hashem tells to count Kol Adat Bnei Yisrael - "the entire congregation of Bnai Yisrael" (emphasis added), and appoints one leader from each tribe to assist Moshe in the task. Yet a careful look reveals that Levi is conspicuously absent from those twelve tribes. Lest someone think that we are jumping to conclusions, the summary at the end of the counting seems to confirm the observation. In Pasuk 45 we are given the total count, and that is introduced with the phrase Vayahi Kol Pekudei Bnei Yisrael... - "And the count of the entire Bnai Yisrael was..." (emphasis added). When describing the total of Bnai Yisrael somehow Levi doesn't count.

Again, some of you may be thinking that I am reading too much into too little. Let us continue toward the conclusion of the Perek. In Pasuk 49 Hashem explicitly instructs Moshe that Levi is not to be counted with the rest of Bnai Yisrael. And later, in Pasuk 52, the Torah describes where Bnai Yisrael, as opposed to Shevet Levi are to camp - since Shevet Levi is to camp surrounding the Mishkan lest anything happen to Bnai Yisrael. The deliberate language in the Torah distinguishes between the Levi'im and Bnai Yisrael and sends a clear message - Levi is not included in the discussion of Bnai Yisrael.

Truth be told, we probably suspected that something was different about them.

On the one hand they seem to be apart from Bnai Yisrael, while on the other they are very much a part of them. The ambiguity surrounding the Levi'im heightens our awareness of them and the conspicuousness of their absence. Let us take a peek, to shed just a bit of light on their unusual station.

A pivotal part of the legacy of the Levi'im revolves around their involvement after Chet Ha'agel as they followed Moshe's instructions and slew somewhere in the range of 3,000 Jews steeped in idolatrous worship.

In the range of 3000 feet, Flight 1549 was struck down, but as oddly as are the Levites, there is no body count. Understand.

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