“And regarding Levi, he said” (Dt.33:8)—
Why is this stated?
Because Shimon and Levi both drank from the same cup
[in their murder of the Shechemites (Gn.34:25-30)],
as it is said [in Jacob’s blessing to this children]:
“Accursed be their anger, for it is fierce;
and their rage, for it is harsh!
I will divide them in Jacob,
and will disperse them throughout Israel!” (Gn.49:7)
Two borrowed a certain sum from the king.
One of them repaid the king,
and even lent the king money.
As for the other fellow,
not only did he neglect to repay,
but he even borrowed more from the king!
So with Shimon and Levi—
both of them borrowed from Shechem,2
along the lines of what is said:
“The two sons of Jacob, Shimon and Levi,
the brothers of Dinah, each took his sword,
and stealthily entered the city,
killing all the males”
Levi repaid,3 in the wasteland, what he borrowed [at Shechem],
as it is said:
“And Moses stood at the gate of the encampment, saying . . .
Let each man strap his sword to his thigh,
and circulate from gate to gate
throughout the camp, killing brother, neighbor, and kin.
Then the Levites did according
To the Utterance of HASHEM” (Ex.32:26-28)—
[but Shimon played no part in taking those lives for God].
Then, at Shittim, they lent [sinners’ lives] to the All-Present,
As it is said:
“Phineas b. Elazar b. Aaron the Priest
has turned My anger from the descendants of Israel
by zealously defending My jealousy in their midst.
Therefore, I have not finished off the descendants of Israel in My jealousy!” (Nu.25:11)
As for Shimon,
not only did he neglect to repay [lives borrowed] at Shechem,
but he even borrowed more [Shimonite and Midianite lives] from the king!
As it is said:
“And the name of the Israelite man who was struck dead
with the Midianite woman, was Zimri b. Salu,
leader of the Shimonite patriarchal household.” (Nu.25:17)
That is why it is stated
[in connection with Moses’ blessing of Shimon]:
“And regarding Levi, he said” (Dt.33:8).
“May Your divination stones4remain with your pious man” (Dt.33:8)—
this refers to the [Priest, descended from Aaron,]
who will in the future inquire of the stones of divination.
“Your pious man” (Dt.33:8)—
the one who receives the kindnesses [of levitical gifts]
from your [Israelite] children.
“Whom you tested at Massah” (Dt.33:8)—
with many trials did you prove him,
and he prevailed in all his trials.
”And you quarreled with him at the waters of Meribah” (Dt.33:8) –
you lodged false accusations against him.
When Moses said:
“Listen to me, you rebels!” (Nu.20:10)—
what had Aaron and Miriam done
[to deserve to be slandered as rebels]?
- H:362-363; JN2:425-426.
- It is not clear from the text exactly what was borrowed. Most commentators argue that Levi and Shimon “borrowed against their reward in the coming eon” by virtue of their murderous behavior. My interpretation, somewhat closer to the contextual sense of the text, is that Levi and Shimon killed innocents and, thereby, “borrowed innocent lives” in their various attacks.
- He killed, but in defense of God.
- Heb: tumeikha we’ureikha; viz., ‘urim wetumim (usually rendred “Urim” and “Thumim”.) See, e.g., Ex.28:30. The function of these objects is clearly some sort of divination of the future (as at Nu.27:21). Their nature is also uncertain. Judging from the likely roots (‘ –w-r and t-w-m), I hazard a speculative translation: “perfected illuminators.”