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Staying A Levi

The Gemara in Sota, daf yud alef, amud bais describes the reward that was received by the midwives in Mitzrayim for not killing the Jewish male babies. The posuk says, “Vayas lahem batim.” Rav and Shmuel explain that this is referring to the houses of Kohanim, Levi’im, and malchus. The designated honor of Kohen was Aharon; and Levi was Moshe. The Maharsha asks a question on this. What was so special about the fact that Moshe was a Levi if the entire Shevet Levi was chosen to be Levi’im since they did not work in Mitzrayim?

            The Gemara in Zvachim, daf kuf bais discusses an argument on the posuk in Shemos, Perek Daled, posuk yud daled where Hashem got angry at Moshe for refusing to go see Pharaoh. Reb Shimon bar Yochai says that up until the point that Hashem got angry, Moshe and his sons were going to be the Kohanim. After Hashem got angry, Moshe and his sons became Levi’im. According to the chachamim, Moshe was never a Kohen; he only acted as one during the Shivas Yemei Hamiluim. Others hold that Moshe was a Kohen his whole life; however, his children became Leviim.

            Reb Chaim Brisker says based on a tosfos in Bechoros, mem zayin, amud alef that even though Kohanim come from Shevet Levi, they are not exclusively Levi’im. Their status as a Levi is based on the fact that they are a Kohen. As long as one is a kosher Kohen, he is considered a Levi. In the event he becomes a “Chalal” (improper Kohen), he will lose his status of Levi also. Practical application to this is seen when a Kohen Chalal may not receive “Levi” during Krias HaTorah. Based on the above-mentioned premise, when Moshe became a Kohen he lost his status as a Levi. If not for the fact that his mother did not kill the Jewish male babies, he would have been rendered a non-Levi based on the fact that he was a Kohen. The Maharsha explains that this is the chiddush of the midwives’ reward; their children will be Levi’im despite the fact that Moshe had lost his status as Levi.