Commentary for Bamidbar

10 Jun

In this week’s parshah, the Israelites are commanded to take a census. A census is a practical matter. The information recorded from it is always put to some sort of official use. In one of the multiple different censuses taken in this week’s parshah, God instructs Moses to count all of the descendants of the tribe of Levi so that they can be assigned to their service in the Tabernacle. Right before this census begins, though, the Torah goes out of its way to remind us that although it is about to tell us that Aaron only has two sons, he also had two others who previously died. The text not only specifically brings up these two sons, Nadav and Avihu, but also the fact that they died without having children. Obviously they can’t serve in the Tabernacle, nor can the nonexistent descendants the text goes out of its way to point out that they didn’t leave behind, so why even mention them at all?


Memory- both personal and institutional- is very important in Judaism. While the manner in which their lives ended was very unfortunate, up until that moment Nadav and Avihu had been excellent priests. Throughout their lives they had helped many people improve their relationships with God. However disastrous their end was, that service should not be forgotten. The Torah specifically brings up that they had no children to carry on their legacy to let us know that it is up to us to carry on the memories of those who die with no descendants, so that their good deeds will not be forgotten and will serve as an inspiration to future generations for all time.

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