Sharing Torah Insights

Shimon and Levi

Posted on כ״א באדר ה׳תש״ע (March 7, 2010) | in Ki Tisa, VaYishlach | by

The Talmud tells us in three places “All is in the hands of Heaven, except the fear of Heaven” (Brachot 33b, Megilla 25a, Niddah 16b). One frequent interpretation of this is that while a person’s characteristics, aptitudes, skills, etc are predestined, one can choose to use this for good or for ill. An agile person who can climb walls could choose to be a catburglar or a fireman. So what does this have to do with our parsha?

In Parshat Vayishlach, Shimon and Levi decide to take revenge on Shechem for what he did to Dinah. The two of them killed all of the Shechemites and plundered the city. For this behavior, Jacob rebukes them there in Parshat Vayishlach and again in Parshat Vayihi. But we see later on that the tribe of Shimon is viewed very differently from the tribe of Levi, who is honored to serve in the Temple, and carry the Mishkan. Neither tribe is given land in Israel, but the Levites are given special cities to live in for rotations of serving in the Mishkan and then eventually the Temple. The Levites are also given tithes by all farmers in Israel. The Shimonites do not receive these special privileges, nor do they receive land like the other “regular” tribes. Why? And again, what does this have to do with our parsha?

The trait of being an angry or vengeful person is normally a bad one. In most circumstances, taking vengeance is frowned upon. However, when Moses descend from Mount Sinai and sees the Golden Calf being worshipped, he calls out “Whoever is for G-d, to me!” (Shemot 32:26). Who gathers to Moses? The Levites. It is the same characteristic that led their ancestor to kill Shechem and his city that led the Levites of Moses’ time to kill those worshipping the Calf. It is for this correct use of character that the Levites are rewarded to serve G-d in the Mishkan, and to receive tithes, and so on.

May we all find productive ways to use our G-d given characteristics in Avodat Hashem.

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