Vaera 5771 – Why only mention 3 tribes?

These are the heads of the paternal households: the sons of Ruvain, the firstborn of Yisrael… the sons of Shimon… and these are the names of the sons of Levi… these are Moshe and Aharon” Shemos 6:14-28

This week’s parsha lists the children of the tribes starting with the offspring of Ruvain, then continuing with the offspring of Shimon, and concluding with the tribe of Levi (including Moshe and Aharon). Why does the Torah only mention these three tribes? Why doesn’t it list the offspring from all 12 tribes? Or another way of looking at it: why does the Torah mention the children of Ruvain and Shimon at all? The goal of the Torah was to trace the lineage of Moshe and Aharon, so why not just mention the tribe of Levi?

In chapter 12 of Shmuel II, Nasan HaNavi comes to Dovid HaMelech with a parable. Nasan stated there were two people: a wealthy man who could have anything he wanted and a poor shephard who only had one sheep. One day, a guest came to the wealthy man and the wealthy man was so miserly that he did not want to waste any of his own sheep for the guest. So, the wealthy man stole the poor man’s only sheep. Did the wealthy man do something that is allowed? Dovid HaMelech became very angry and stated the wealthy man deserves to die. Nasan HaNavi responded, “You are that man, Dovid HaMelech! G-d gave you everything – he saved your life and gave you much wealth – and you go and steal Basheva from Uriah.” Many thoughts went through Dovid’s mind at this point. He began thinking, “Who does Nasan think he is? I didn’t do anything wrong! And I am the King! I can have him killed for speaking like this to me.” But Dovid did not say this. He simply replied, “I sinned to Hashem.” Nasan responded that because Dovid accepted the rebuke and repented, he would not die.

It takes a great person to hear someone else “chew him out” and not respond. Most people find numerous excuses when they hear someone else tell them they did something wrong, but, even though Dovid HaMelech had excuses he could have used, he accepted the rebuke given to him by Nasan HaNavi.

Do you want to know who else did not respond when they were rebuked? Ruvain, Shimon, and Levi. In Parshas Vayechi, when Yaakov is on his deathbed, he rebuked Ruvain for the wrong he did when he switched his father’s bed and Shimon and Levi for killing out the city of Shechem. Yaakov rebuked these three brothers in front of all of the other brothers. How embarrassing it was for them! But these three tzaddikim did not respond with excuses. They accepted the rebuke of their father. Their reward: in this week’s parsha when the Torah traces the lineage of the greatest prophet and leader ever to live, their names are mentioned. These three sons of Yaakov are mentioned with Moshe and Aharon – a great honor!

Remaining silent and accepting rebuke is an extremely difficult thing to do. Excuses are easy to find. If a person, though, swallows his pride and accepts the rebuke, his reward is tremendous!

Good Shabbos!
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