Monday, June 6, 2011

Levi'im are the Real Stars

The Sefer Chareidim makes an interesting observation regarding the beginning of this week's Parsha. The Parsha begins with Aharon being informed of the lighting of the Menorah and this segment follows the end of last week's Parsha which discussed the Nesi'im inaugurating the Mizbeach with their sacrifices. The Midrash informs us that Aharon was depressed that the twelve Nesi'im were able to offer sacrifices to inaugurate the Mizbeach, but he was not. Hashem gave Aharon the mitzvah of Menorah and this pacified him.

The Chareidim mentions that we know that the twelve Nesi'im and their sacrifices corresponded to the twelve constellations of the zodiac. (See Bamidbar Rabbah) Thus, their actions were a display of the forces of nature uniting in the service of Hashem and that these heads of Shevet were symbolic of these forces. Aharon was shown that he represented something far superior than these forces of nature, that which is expressed in the Menorah. The Menorah's seven branches symbolize the seven ancient planets: the sun, moon, Mercury, Mars, Venus, Jupiter, and Saturn. As all ancient astrologers were aware, these influences were considered superior to the twelve constellations. Perhaps this is because the constellations are considered the houses and places of these planets and it is the position of these planets that controls how the influence of the twelve constellations will be showered on Earth. (See Ibn Ezra's Reishis Chachma) (See here where a dissenting, albeit hard to understand approach is taken by Rav Eibshitz and here to see that Rav Eibshitz seems to have known of a system far different from the one found in most earlier sources.) Therefore, Aharon was shown that he was on a higher plane than the Nesi'im and that he need not worry.

The Chareidim then continues to mention that we then have all the Shevatim and Aharon represented in the sky with one exception, Levi. Where do the regular Levi'im find themselves? (This is reminiscent of Tosefos of Shvuos 14a's question that according to the opinion that the Levi'im were not considered part of the regular nation, with which korbon did they receive forgiveness on Yom Kippur as they were not included in the nation's nor in the kohanim's?) The Chareidim then offers the possibility that he Levi'im were represented by the regular stars of the sky. Interestingly, states the Chareidim, earlier in Sefer Bamidbar we were informed that the census of the Levi'im totalled 22,000. This, says the Chareidim, equals the amount of large stars in the sky.

The question I have is that the total number of visible stars is somewhat closer to 3,000 - 4,000. If the Chareidim maintains that big stars total 22,000 then what is considered small since he has already exceeded the visible amount? If he is referring to size or magnitude, then there will be far more than this number no matter what definition one will use for big.

Although I concede that the following does not fit well in the language used in the Chareidim, perhaps, he intended the following. Maybe he meant that the total amount of big stars is considered to be 1,022. This number was used by the Ibn Ezra (Reishis Chachma) and even by Ptolemy. (See this earlier post and comments for a little more perspective.) Even from the Chareidim's analysis of this portion one can see that he was familiar with these earlier sources. Perhaps, he reads the Hebrew of 22 X 1,000 to also homiletically be 1,000 + 22. Thus, the Levi'im are representative of the stars of the heavens.

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