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Vayikra/Leviticus 21:1 "Say to the Kohanim, the sons of Aharon and you shall say to them ..."
The first thing we notice about this time is that the Torah appears to be redundant: who, after all, are the priests if not the sons of Aharon? There are several ways of handling this; the first is to point out that just as with the phrase , the sons or children of Israel, can be a collective plural for the children of Aharon, so that it is necessary to say "the priests" to mean only the male children, i.e. sons of Aharon. Another approach is to remember that when the tribe of Levi is numbered to count those eligible to serve in the Tent of Meeting (B'Midbar 4:1-3), only those between the ages of thirty and fifty actively serve; so our text may be emphasising that all the sons of Aharon are include, not just those currently serving as priests in the Tent of Meeting.
The second thing we notice is that instead of the usual combination of 'speak' and 'say', this text uses the verb , say, twice. The Rabbis deduce from this that the second verb is to be included in what Moshe is to say to the sons of Aharon, thus instructing them to say it in turn to their sons. This reflects the familiar concept within Judaism of passing on the heritage in generations, from father to son, parents to children. As believers, we can see this not only in the sense of physical generations but also spiritual generations as we pass on the faith to those around us.
Rav Sha'ul wrote to Timothy, " And the things you heard from me, which were supported by many witnesses, these things commit to faithful people, such as will be competent to teach others also" (2 Tim 2:2, CJB). See the number of generations at work here: Rav Sha'ul, Timothy, the faithful people and the others who would be taught. That's four spiritual generations. What Rav Sha'ul is really saying is that it isn't enough just to teach people information, you also have to impart to them the need to teach others; that teaching others is just as much a part of the package as the information itself. Our abilities as teachers can only be assessed when we see our pupils not only teaching their pupils but encouraging them in turn to teach the people they come into contact with.
Our text from the parasha, then, starts a chain of instruction from the priesthood - all those down through the generations who would serve as priests - concerning ritual purity and contact with corpses. This instruction was not only to be a way of life for the priests but was to be passed on from father to son, generation to generation, so that the whole priesthood would know how G-d expected them to behave in contact with death. How much more should we, as believers in Messiah Yeshua, set apart and holy for Him, model that faithful transmission of conduct and behaviour.
Further Study: Shemot 12:25-28; 1 Peter 3:15-16
Application: How good are you at communicating the important concepts of the faith to those around you and, in particular, your children? Could the process be improved by a course of study, spending more time with the L-rd yourself, or simply speaking out when the opportunity arises?
© Jonathan Allen, 2004
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