Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Parshas Tetzaveh 5776

Were Aaron's Grandchildren Priests?

The Torah writes (Exodus 28:1):
And bring thou near unto thee Aaron thy brother, and his sons with him, from among the children of Israel, that they may minister unto Me in the priest’s office, even Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar, Aaron’s sons.
The Ramban explains (ibid, see also Rashi [Numbers 25:13]) that Aaron's grandchildren already born were excluded:
For only these five were made into priests ... and it comes to exclude Phineas (son of Eleazar) and other children for only these four were included with him (i.e. Aaron), and any born after this time
However, Ibn Ezra (Numbers 25:12) disagrees on the definition of what  Phineas got:
And Zimri's brothers would not disturb him ... and his reward (Phineas for killing Zimri) was that him and his descendents be given the covenant of priesthood forever, for Kohanim Gedolim were from Phineas even though Eleazar had other sons
The Ralbag (beginning of Pinchas) cites this opinion and another one:
This is to say that priesthood will not cease from him and his descendents forever, and this is a blessing for his lineage to say pure always for without it its not a blessing for all those who came from Aaron are considered priests ... and it is possible this is a hint for the Kehunah Gedolah and it would make more sense and it is a promise that he would not die before his father
The source of these disagreements is the Talmud (Zevachim 101b) which cites two different opinions regarding Aaron's grandchildren. According on one opinion, all of Aaron's descendents were priests originally (this is Ralbag's opinion), according to the second opinion only Phineas became a priest and after he killed Zimri (this is Rashi's opinion)

Were Moses's Children Priests?

The Talmud (Zevachim 101b) cites an opinion regarding Moses:
Rab said: Moses our teacher was a Kohen Gadol and ate from the sacrifices
However, we do not find that his children were considered priests. Instead, they were considered regular Levites as we find regarding Moses's grandson (Judges 17:7):
And there was a young man out of Beth-lehem in Judah—in the family of Judah—who was a Levite, and he sojourned there.
(see here for further explanation how we know who he was)

We find similarly (Joshua 21:5):
And the rest of the children of Kohath had by lot out of the families of the tribe of Ephraim, and out of the tribe of Dan, and out of the half-tribe of Manasseh, ten cities.
As Rashi explains [Joshua 21:5]):
These were the sons of Moses, Yitzhar, Hevron and Uziel
(this would also explain the presence of Moses's grandson near Dan)

It seems the priesthood had to be explicitly assigned to children as per the verse here (Exodus 28:1):
And bring thou near unto thee Aaron thy brother, and his sons with him

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