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Why were the Levites chosen to be G‑d’s special ministers?

Why were the Levites chosen to be G‑d’s special ministers?

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Originally, the firstborn sons were to have been the priests of the Jewish nation, who would serve in the Tabernacle and in the Temple and be the spiritual leaders. When G‑d spared the Jewish firstborn during the Plague of the Firstborn in Egypt, He “acquired” them and designated them for this special role.

After the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai, the Jewish people made and worshipped a golden calf. Click here to read the entire story. The only tribe that did not participate in this shameful act was the tribe of Levi. At this time, the firstborn lost their special status, and it was transferred to the Levites.

In the Torah’s description of the induction of the Levites as they began their new role (Numbers 8:16–18), G‑d tells Moses: “For they [the Levites] are wholly given over to Me from among the children of Israel; instead of those that open the womb all the firstborn of Israel I have taken them for Myself . . .”

May we soon merit seeing the building of the Third Temple, and the return of the Levites to their service.

All the best,
Rochel Chein for Chabad.org

Mrs. Rochel Chein is a member of the chabad.org Ask the Rabbi team.
All names of persons and locations or other identifying features referenced in these questions have been omitted or changed to preserve the anonymity of the questioners.
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Gail Florida February 21, 2017

What is the common or ancestral name that identifies all Levites as descendants of Abraham? Reply

Hatjuggler November 21, 2014

The firstborn chosen as priests? Aaron and his sons were chosen as G-d's priests *before* the golden calf incident. In Ex 27:21 and Ex 28:1-5. Israel's firstborn were consecrated to God in Ex 13:1 before the Plague of the First Born, but they were never designated to serve as priests. It was always Aaron and his sons. Reply

marguerite Flushing, NY December 22, 2013

Mazel Tov Hey Kew Gardens, Flushing over here!! (I could go for some onion matzel (!?) right now...with a nice glass o' tea!!) :-D

I did DNA testing several years ago. Says i share markers with members of tribe of Levi. I have asked mom to be swabbed. She's not interested in doing so. I am searching to see whether there is a way to definitively confirm or deny whether i am Jewish or not. It sure makes all the sense in the world to me that i have Levite markers because i am a lawyer, can't seem to get rich, but work hard, win my cases, enjoy serving people, inspire people's confidence (except, my mother's and older half sister's for some reason). Seems that i am naturally serving the Levite function in the contemporary western world even before i learned of my Levite connection. My mother basically serves as Levite too. She was dad's office manager, keeping the books, accts, investments. She was not 'paid' per se, of course. Comments, suggestions welcomed!
shalom! Reply

Anonymous USA November 16, 2013

The word G-d what's that all about? Reply

Rochel Chein for chabad.org June 24, 2013

Aharon and the Golden Calf John, see Was Aaron Responsible for the Golden Calf? for a look at Aharon's role in the story. Reply

John Pallivathukal USA June 23, 2013

Mrs. Chein:

I disagree with your statement "The only tribe that did not participate in this shameful act was the tribe of Levi". As a matter of fact, Aaron, as a leader, took the leadership in misleading the people in worshiping the calf, further, he made the calf, he made them naked (Exodus: 32: 2, 4, and 25). Bible does not say if he did not participated in this shameful act. However, when the opportunity was given to repent and make it right, "Levi and his sons" took advantage of it (Exod. 32. 26-30). Wouldn't that be the reason why the Levites were chosen by G-d? Reply

Bob Simpson Melbourne, Australia June 30, 2011

The Levites Dear Rochel, my question is, "In the way of G-d over the world today, what would be the contemporary role of 'the Levites', and how would you see that manifested in the western world?" I don't understand how you have answered. In following through your response, I came across this, "... a new people, descendants of Moses, would take their places, to carry the torch of the Divine Law among the nations of the world." Prophetically, how would you see that manifesting in the western world? Reply

Anonymous Prescott, AR/US June 30, 2011

Levites I never noticed this before as many times as I have read it! Thank you. Reply

Bob Simpson, AMEP Associate Melbourne, Australia March 31, 2011

The Levites In the way of G-d over the world today, what would be the contemporary role of 'the Levites', and how would you see that manifested in the western world? Reply

philip amaria kew garden, n.y./usa December 27, 2008

matzel tov proud of my heritage Reply