Devarim 1:23 reads:

וַיִּיטַב בְּעֵינַי הַדָּבָר וָאֶקַּח מִכֶּם שְׁנֵים עָשָׂר אֲנָשִׁים אִישׁ אֶחָד לַשָּׁבֶט׃

And the matter pleased me; so I took twelve men from you, one man for each tribe.


שנים עשר אנשים איש אחד לשבט: מגיד שלא היה שבט לוי עמהם׃

twelve men… one man for each tribe: [This] tells [us] that the tribe of Levi was not with them. (Sifrei).

My question is:

What is Rashi explaining/clarifying here and why do we need a special limud (exegesis) for this?

In Parshat Shelach (Bamidbar 13:4-15) all the the spies are named one-by-one and clearly there is no mention of a representative from the tribe of Levi!

  • "One man for each tribe" could mean 13 (11+Ephraim and Menashe), "twelve men" could mean JUST the bnai yaakov (including Levi, but only one for Yosef). Having both clarifies that only tribes that would inherit the land were sent, including 2 for Ephraim and Menashe, but none for Levi. One might consider that Levi was already involved, since Moshe - from shevet Levi - was the "commander" in this case. Commented Jul 21, 2015 at 13:08
  • Related: judaism.stackexchange.com/q/73460
    – msh210
    Commented Jul 3, 2016 at 6:11

2 Answers 2


Sifsei Chachamim brings this question from Rabi Elazar Mizrachi who left it as a question.

The Sifsei Chachamim goes on to suggest that this limud is to tell us that Shevet Levi was not even involved in the council to send spies. He quotes Rashi, who's words are now clearer, who says Levi was not with them, but did not say Levi did not go with them.

  • +1 Thanks for this answer. I just found the Gur Aryeh who offers a similar answer with a little more explanation.
    – Danield
    Commented Jul 21, 2015 at 22:31
  • @Danield good find +1. In all likelihood S.Ch. got it from G.A.
    – user6591
    Commented Jul 21, 2015 at 22:41

The Gur Aryeh explains this Rashi.

He cites the question of Rabbi Eliyahu Mizrachi (the Re'em)

והקשה הרא״ם, דכבר כתיב בפרשת שלח (במדבר יג, ל-טו) שנים עשר אנשים, כל אחד בשמו, ולא נכתב כלל אחד משבט לוי עמהם,

and then answers:

ואין זה קשיא, דהאי ׳מגיד׳, פירושו, מה שהוצרך משה רבנו עליו השלום לומר לישראל ״שנים עשר אנשים״, כדי לומר משה לישראל שלא היה באותו פעם שבט לוי , דהא מה שאמר ״איש אחד לשבט״ , גם כן כתב למעלה (ר במדבר יג, ב), ומשה היה חוזר להם בתוכחה הדברים הראשונים. וכך פירושו, מגיד משה לישראל ואמר להם בקשתם דבר שלא כהוגן, שאין ראוי ל כ שר לבקש שלוח מרגלים, שהרי שבט לוי הכשרים לא בקשו כלל.

So according to the Gur Aryeh, Rashi is to be understood as follows:

The seemingly unnecessary words

שְׁנֵים עָשָׂר אֲנָשִׁים - twelve men

are there to stress that:

the tribe of Levi was not with them

ie - As apposed to the other tribes who approached Moshe to spy out the land - the tribe of Levi was not in favor of this idea at all.

By stressing this, Moshe is rebuking the people for wanting to send the spies even though they saw that the tribe of Levi (who were more virtuous people) were not in favor.

So the point here is not that from among the spies there was no representative from the tribe of Levi, but rather that the tribe of Levi as a whole was against the idea of sending spies - which made the decision by the rest of the people to send spies wrongful. This would then be a continuation of Moshe alluding to incidents where the people angered Hashem.

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