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Updated: Jul 18, 2023

Aaron’s sons faced tragedy and triumph, Moshe’s sons faced peace and mediocrity. What was the cause? * From Parshas Chukas.

by Bing AI

The succession of Aaron's sons was very different from the lackluster legacy of Moshe's children. Here are some possible reasons for their disparate parenting experiences, based on three aspects: their roles, their relationships, and their results.


Aaron's sons were chosen as priests to minister in the tabernacle, while Moshe's sons were only Levites who assisted the priests. This gave Aaron's sons a more prominent and sacred role, but also a higher level of accountability and responsibility. They had to follow God's instructions precisely and could not deviate from them without severe consequences.

Moshe's sons, on the other hand, had a more humble and supportive role, but also more freedom and flexibility. They did not have to bear the burden of representing God to the people or offering sacrifices on their behalf. (Leviticus 10; Numbers 3)


Aaron's sons were more involved in their father's mission and learned from him, while Moshe's sons were more distant and influenced by their maternal grandfather's culture. Aaron's sons accompanied their father in the Exodus journey, witnessed the miracles and wonders of God, and participated in the inauguration of the tabernacle. They were considered as the "generations" of Moshe because they were taught by him, and they inherited his glory and leadership.

In contast, Moshe's sons were sent away with their mother Zipporah to Jethro in Midian before the Exodus. They did not join their father until later in the desert, and they did not fully embrace their father's covenant. They were bound by a vow to Jethro that prevented them from being circumcised until they reached the age of thirteen, and they did not raise their children in the ways of God and Torah. (Exodus 18; 24; Midrash Tanchuma Pinchas 11; Zipporah: Midrash and Aggadah)


Aaron's sons faced more tragedy and loss, but also more honor and reward, while Moshe's sons enjoyed more peace and stability, but also more obscurity and mediocrity. Two of Aaron's sons, Nadab and Abihu, died because of their error of offering unauthorized fire before the Lord. The other two, Eleazar and Ithamar, had to mourn for them while continuing their service. Aaron himself had to witness his sons' death and his successor's inauguration without expressing any grief or complaint. However, Aaron's sons also received more honor and reward from God for their faithful service. Eleazar became the high priest after Aaron's death, and his descendants continued to serve as high priests until the destruction of the First Temple. Ithamar was also honored by God as the ancestor of Ezra the scribe, who led the return from exile and rebuilt the Second Temple.

Moshe's sons, on the other hand, did not face God's wrath or judgment, and did not have to endure the hardships and challenges of leading the people. However, they also did not receive much honor or reward from God for their service. They did not inherit their father's glory or leadership, and they faded into obscurity after his death. Their descendants were not very numerous or righteous, and some even strayed into idolatry. (Leviticus 10; Numbers 20; 25; 1 Chronicles 23-24; Ezra 7-8; Judges 17-18; Midrash Petirat Moshe 11)


One possible cause of this dichotomy is that God had different plans and purposes for Aaron and Moshe, and their respective sons. God chose Aaron to be the first high priest and the founder of the priestly line, which would serve Him in the sanctuary and teach His laws to Israel. God chose Moshe to be the leader and prophet of Israel, who would deliver them from Egypt, bring them the Torah, and guide them in the wilderness. God also chose Joshua, Moshe's faithful assistant, to be his successor and lead Israel into the Promised Land. Thus, God did not intend for Moshe's sons to inherit his role or authority, but rather for Joshua to continue his legacy. (Exodus 4; 28; Numbers 27)

These are some possible reasons for the different outcomes of Aaron's sons and Moshe's sons. They show that parenting is not only a matter of genetics or environment, but also of choice and consequence.

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