Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Double-Parsha Vayakhel-P'kudei, 5775/2015

Link to some previous P'kudei posts of mine.  And to Vayakhel alone.

Parshat P'kudei:

כא  אֵלֶּה פְקוּדֵי הַמִּשְׁכָּן מִשְׁכַּן הָעֵדֻת, אֲשֶׁר פֻּקַּד עַל-פִּי מֹשֶׁה:  עֲבֹדַת, הַלְוִיִּם, בְּיַד אִיתָמָר, בֶּן-אַהֲרֹן הַכֹּהֵן.21 These are the accounts of the tabernacle, even the tabernacle of the testimony, as they were rendered according to the commandment of Moses, through the service of the Levites, by the hand of Ithamar, the son of Aaron the priest.--

Is this the Torah's first use of the term HaLeviyim, the Levites, as opposed to B'nei or Shevet Levi, the Children or Tribe of Levi?  This would seem to indicate that the Leviim had a distinct function of serving in the place of worship even before they were officially given that role--which, to me, seems to indicate that the reason given for the Leviim having that role was a justification after the fact.

Thursday, March 12, 2015 update
The grammar is the tip-off.  Do we call the descendants of Reuven Reuvenim, or the descendants of Benjamin Binyaminim?  (In Megillat [the Book of] Esther, Mordechai, a Benjaminite,  is described as "Ish Y'mini.")  I may be wrong, but it seems to me that only the descendants of Levi get a pluralized name, Leviim.

There's also the fact that the word Kohen (priest) is not of Jewish origin:  In the Tanach/Bible itself, pagan priests are also described as Kohanim--see B'reishit/Genesis, chapter 14:

יח  וּמַלְכִּי-צֶדֶק מֶלֶךְ שָׁלֵם, הוֹצִיא לֶחֶם וָיָיִן; וְהוּא כֹהֵן, לְאֵל עֶלְיוֹן. 18 And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine; and he was priest [kohen] of God the Most High. 

So are pre-Levitical Israelite priests.

I  began to wonder whether the term Leviim might also be pagan in origin.

Curious, I did an Internet search, "does the name levi have pre-biblical origins," and this is what I got:

"Etymology of the name Levi
There is some controversy about the etymology of the name Levi. BDB Theological Dictionary suggests that the name Levi was derived from the word Levite, in stead of vice versa, and that the word Levite has to do with a Minaean word for priest."

So, naturally, I did another Internet search for "Minaean word for priest," and this is what I found, courtesy of Wikipedia:

"according to some Jewish scholars, Levite was originally just a job title, deriving from the Minaean word lawi'u meaning priest, rather than having been the name of a tribe.[4"

Makes sense to me.

See also DovBear's Did only Levites leave Egypt?


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