“For the tithe of the children of Israel which will be raised up for G-d, I have designated as a contribution to the Levite, as their territory, for I have said to them, they will not inherit territory within the children of Israel.” (Numbers 18:24)
The Levite tribe is set aside as a separate tribe in Israel, dedicated to worshipping G-d on behalf of the nation of Israel in the Temple and, therefore, prevented from owning land or receiving their own tribal territory.In a previous verse, G-d makes it clear that the tithe replaces whatever financial benefit would accrue to the Levite from owning land. But the tithing system ensures that the Levites will never be involved in business or farming affairs but will be able to devote themselves to worship and service of G-d.At the end of the Book of Genesis, before his death, Jacob blesses his children, reminding them of events in their past and providing them with insights as to their future.
His blessing to Levi and Simeon reflects his displeasure with their rash behavior after their sister Dina was raped by the people of Shechem. “I will divide them within Jacob and spread them out across Israel.” And, indeed, these predictions are prophetic. Simeon is virtually absorbed into the tribe of Judah and disappears as a separate tribe. Levi, on the other hand, is raised up to a special level of sanctity, and spread across the land, not restricted to any one territory of its own.Levi, who began his tribal existence with a rash and violent action, is selected to lead a life of ultimate peace and serenity, serving in G-d’s temple.
When not serving in the Temple, the Levites taught the nation of Israel, spread out as they were throughout the land. Moses and Aaron come from the tribe of Levi and served the nation of Israel faithfully in the desert. And yet, Moses began his career killing an Egyptian who had wronged his people.Perhaps there was something in Levi’s temperament that needed a restraining hand that carried enormous potential for good, for humility and service, but needed to be channeled in the proper direction. Perhaps it is those individuals with the greatest passion, the greatest zeal for setting things right, that have the greatest ability to do good, and to serve G-d with the greatest fervor. But it is often these same people who need the restraining hand of wisdom that a life of service, of doing for G-d and for His people, can give to them.Shabbat Shalom from Samaria,