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KMTT - the Torah Podcast

Jun 6, 2024

Bamidbar | The Reasoning Behind The Exchange of the Levi'im for the Firstborn, by Rav Yitzchak Etshalom

Perhaps the most curious item in the entire census (which covers the first 5 chapters of Bamidbar, properly speaking) is the command to exchange the Levi'im for the Bekhorot (firstborn males) and the subsequent directive to redeem the surplus Bekhorot, which became the paradigm for "Pidyon haBen." Why the first born were to be "de-sanctified" at all is never explained in the text, nor why the Levi'im are their "replacements". We examine the "popular" approach which first appears in a relatively late Midrash - that the Bekhorot all (?) sinned in the episode of the Golden Calf and that the Levi'im, contradistinctively, were the religious heroes of that dark moment and note several textual challenges to each of those assumptions. After a brief discussion, a novel suggestion is made that explains both sides of the question - the "redemption" of the Bekhorot as well as the initiation of the Levi'im into the sanctified world of the Mishkan. This shiur was given in memory of שושנה תמר בת הרב אשר אהרן ומרים ז״ל

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