Levi’s Leftovers: Korah 2019

by Adam J. Rosenbaum

Pre-Game Chatter: Have you ever given up certain privileges so that you could gain other privileges? If you have, do you feel it was worthwhile? Do you have any regrets?

Our Torah portion describes both the extent and limitations to the role of the Levites, the assistants to the Israelite priests:

The Pitch: “And to the Levites I hereby give all the tithes in Israel as their share in return for the services that they perform, the services of the Tent of Meeting. Henceforth, Israelites shall not trespass on the Tent of Meeting, and thus incur guilt and die: only Levites shall perform the services of the Tent of Meeting; others would incur guilt. It is the law for all time throughout the ages. But they shall have no territorial share among the Israelites, for it is the tithes set aside by the Israelites as a gift to Adonai that I give to the Levites as their share.” – Numbers 18:21-24a

Swing #1: “[The Levites] are to relate to God all the material elements of the people’s lives; this is their office and task in the nation. The flourishing of this relationship in understanding and in practice is their portion, their share in the nation’s achievements, and handing down these spiritual achievements from the parents to the children is their inheritance, their spiritual heritage. Both together – the portion and the inheritance – are the basis of their existence and of their material prosperity.” – Samson Raphael Hirsch

Swing #2: “The regulation concerning the Levitical tithe recalls Nehemiah’s concern for the economic maintenance of this ancillary clerical order on which he could count for support in his often acrimonious relations with the priesthood.” – Joseph Blenkinsopp, The Pentateuch

Swing #3: “How do we reconcile this repetition of the same legislation? It appears that there are two aspects to the tithes with God assigned to the Levites. One reason they receive the tithes is in compensation for the Levites not having received a share of the land. The second reason is to save them having to till the land, i.e. the seven stages of work until the farmer’s wheat is finally ready to be milled, etc. This is the reason the Torah gives a different reason in verse 21, i.e. that it is given to them in exchange for the service they have to perform in the Tent of Testimony.” – Or HaChayim

Late-Inning Questions: Do you think it was worthwhile for Levites to not own land in exchange for their ritual privileges? Must all positions of power have limitations? If so, how do we determine which limitations are reasonable?

The Big Inning at the End: Speaking of exchanging privileges, there are numerous American League pitchers who wish they could play by National League rules so that they have the opportunity to hit, even though doing so increases the risk of injury. Isn’t it odd that the two leagues still have such divergent rules in this matter?

Shabbat Shalom!