Was Moshe Supposed to be a Kohen?

Parshat Tetzaveh  is focused on the Kohanim and describes how they were selected, what they wore and how they were inaugurated.


What is not mentioned in Parshat Tetzaveh is Moshe’s name. This is the only parsha of the last four books of the Torah that doesn’t mention Moshe by name.


Cassuto points out that while Moshe’s name is not mentioned at all in this parsha, Aharon’s name is mentioned seven times!


Nehama Leibowitz explains that this was an opportunity for Aharon to get his chance to be in the limelight.


According to Midrashei HaTorah, the absence of Moshe’s name shows how humble he was. Originally, Moshe was supposed to be the Kohen but then God changed the plan and made Moshe the leader who would take B’nai Yisrael out of Egypt. At that point God made Aharon and his sons the Kohanim.


We learn this from the Talmud, Zevachim 102a: The question of whether Moshe was a Kohen was disputed by the Tanaim as recorded in the following Braita:


After God summoned Moshe at the “burning bush” to lead the Jewish people out of Egypt, Moshe repeatedly begged to be relieved of the mission until God became angry with him as it says in Shmot 4:14: “God displayed anger (vayichar af HaShem) toward Moshe and said, ‘Is not Aharon the Levi your brother? I know that he knows how to speak. Behold he is setting out to meet you and when he sees you he will rejoice in his heart.’”


The Gemara continues, Every time “the burning of anger” is mentioned in the Torah, a mark is mentioned in regard to it. But this burning anger has no mark with regard to it.


Rabbi Shimon ben Yochai says: Actually in regard to this one too a mark is mentioned as it is stated that God then said to Moshe: “Is not Aharon the Levi your brother?” Why did God refer to Aharon as the Levi, wasn’t he a Kohen?


God was really saying: “I said that you (Moshe) were to be the Kohen and he (Aharon) was to be the Levi. Now that you have aroused my anger, he (Aharon) shall be the Kohen and you (Moshe) shall be the Levi…


Some say: The Kehuna ceased only with Moshe’s descendents, but Moshe himself was a Kohen all of his life. As it says in Divrei HaYamim Alef, 23:14: “But as for Moshe, the man of God, his sons are reckoned among the tribe of Levi.” This implies that only Mosh’s sons were Leviim while Moshe himself was a Kohen. Tehillim 99:6 states: “Moshe and Aharon were among his Kohanim and Shmuel among those who invoke His name.”


The fact that Moshe’s name is not mentioned in our parsha reminds us that even if Moshe did serve as a Kohen in some capacity during his lifetime, the Kehuna would not be passed down to his children.

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