Office of the Chief Rabbi

D’var Torah: Parashat Va’era

Importance is just a figment of our imagination.

In Parashat Va’era, on the eve of the redemption of our people, we have a long list of genealogical information presented to us, starting with the tribes of Reuven, Shimon and Levi. And then the Torah stops. What about the rest of the tribes and their members?

Rashi gives two Peruishim. In the first commentary, he tells us that actually, this is a passage which provides the background for Moshe and Aharon. They were members of the tribe of Levi, so once we get to Levi, we can carry on with the details of the Exodus. However, if that is the case, why do we need details of Reuven and Shimon, as well?

‘Quite the contrary, says Rashi, all the members of these tribes are mentioned in order that we should know, they are equally important’

Therefore, Rashi suggests a second Peirush and he says Mipnei Shechashuvim Heim, these three tribes are mentioned to let us know that ‘they are important’. And we would have thought otherwise. And that is because, these are the three – Reuven, Shimon and Levi – who were heavily criticised by Yaakov, just before he passed away.

Reuven, because he took a concubine of his father Yaakov. Shimon and Levi because of their sin in the city of Shechem. Therefore, nobody should think at the time of the Geulah, of the redemption, that there are three tribes less important than the others because of the sins of their ancestors. Quite the contrary, says Rashi, all the members of these tribes are mentioned in order that we should know, they are equally important.

The Hebrew word for important is Chashuv, coming from Chashav, which means ‘to think’, teaching us that the entire notion of importance is a figment of our imagination.

‘The Hebrew word for important is Chashuv, coming from Chashav, which means ‘to think’, teaching us that the entire notion of importance is a figment of our imagination’

Hashem never calls anybody Chashuv, ‘important’, that is only a term that we use. Throughout Tenach, there are adjectives used for the way in which Hashem describes people, such as Tzaddik, ‘righteous’, or Tov, ‘good’.

Consequently, from Reuven, Shimon and Levi being the only tribes to be mentioned in this way here, we learn that everyone in our eyes should be important. And let’s leave judgement in the hands of God.

Shabbat Shalom

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