Bamidbar (Numbers): Bamidbar > Ch 3

Descendants of Aaron & Duties of the Kohanim

  • Aaron had 4 sons: Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar. Nadab & Abihu died when they brought alien fire before the Lord, and they had no children
  • Eleazar and Ithamar served as kohanim in the presence of Aaron, their father.
  • They shall keep Aaron’s charge and the charge of the entire community before the Tent of Meeting, to perform the service of the Mishkan.
  • They shall take charge of all the vessels of the Tent of Meeting and the charge of the children of Israel, to perform the service of the Mishkan.
  • Give over the Levites to Aaron and his sons; they shall be wholly given over to him from the children of Israel.
  • Appoint Aaron and his sons, and they shall keep their kehunah; any outsider [non kohen] who approaches shall be put to death.


G-d takes Levites in place of all firstborns of the children of Israel, to serve as Kohanim

  • As for Me I have taken the Levites from among the children of Israel in place of all firstborns among the children of Israel who have opened the womb, and the Levites shall be Mine.
  • For all the firstborns are Mine; since the day I smote all the firstborns in the land of Egypt, I sanctified for Myself all the firstborns of Israel, both man and beast they shall become Mine, I am the Lord.
  • And you shall take the Levites for Me I am the Lord instead of all firstborns among the children of Israel. And [take] the Levites' animals instead of all the firstborn animals of the children of Israel.
  • Take the Levites instead of all the firstborns among the children of Israel and the Levites' animals instead of their animals, and the Levites shall be Mine I am the Lord.


G-d tells Moses to count the Levites & the Firstborns of the Children of Israel

  • Descendants of Gershon: 7500
  • Descendants of Kohath: 8600
  • Descendants of Merari: 6200
  • Total: 22300
  • Torah says that the total is exactly: 22000 (see Rashi commentary)
  • # of Firstborns of the Children of Israel: 22273
  • # of Firstborns that exceed the # of Levites: 273
  • 273 Firstborns of the Children of Israel that were in excess of the Levites paid 5 shekels per head, according to the holy shekel (20 geras), for a total of $1365 shekels. The money was given to Aaron.


 
Rashi Commentary

  • twenty-two thousand But when you count them individually, you will find another three hundred. Why were they not included with the rest to redeem the firstborn, thus exempting the two hundred and seventy-three firstborns who were in excess [of the number of Levites] from redemption (see verses 46-48)? Our Sages in Tractate Bechorot (5a) answer that those three hundred Levites were firstborns, and it was enough that they exempt themselves from redemption.


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