In B'midbar (Numbers) 8:11 we read:

"Aaron shall lift up the Levites as a waving before the Lord on behalf of the children of Israel...."

What exactly is this "lifting up and waving?" How were the Levites "lifted up" and waived" before HaShem? Bmidbar (Numbers) 8.11?

I read Rashi's commentary:

Then Aaron shall lift up the Levites as a waving: in the same way that the guilt-offering of one afflicted with tzara’ath requires waving [the animal] while it is alive. Three wavings are mentioned in this section: the first (verse 11) refers to the sons of Kohath, and for this reason it states with regard to them, “that they may serve in the Lord’s service,” since they were responsible for the work involving the most holy objects-the ark, the table, etc. The second (verse 13) refers to the sons of Gershon. Therefore, it is stated with regard to them,“a waving before the Lord” (verse 13), for even they were assigned holy work-the curtains and the clasps, which could be seen in the Holy of Holies. The third [waving] was for the sons of Merari (verse 14). - [Midrash Aggadah] 16

Is this a wave offering [?] as in, "And the priest shall take one of the he-lambs, and offer him for a guilt-offering, and the log of oil, and wave them for a wave-offering before the LORD." VaYiqra (Leviticus) 14.12

Perhaps the question should be rephrased as "was this waving and lifting-up somehow connected with a wave-offering?" given Rashi's comment above, related to "the guilt-offering of one afflicted with tzara’ath [which] requires waving [the animal] while it is alive."

  • I don’t understand the question. How were they waved? Moshe literally picked them up and waved them around. What’s the question? Is there a connection between this “waving” and the various other times “waving” is mentioned?
    – DonielF
    May 28, 2018 at 1:18
  • @YochananMauritzHummasti I read Rashi as describing the fact that Moshe picked them up and waved them in the same way that the animal was literally picked up and moved in the various directions. May 28, 2018 at 3:27
  • @ sabbahillel In B'midbar (Numbers) 8.11 we read that "Aaron shall lift up...." Not "Moshe picked them up...." explain please your reference to Moshe rather than Aaron. May 28, 2018 at 3:46
  • @YochananMauritzHummasti sabbahillel must be referring to verse 13 where Hashem commands Moshe - also if you want to ping someone do not put a space after @
    – mbloch
    May 28, 2018 at 5:44
  • @DonielF at what Levite age was this Moshe literally picking them up and waving them around? Must the levite be at a certain age or weight? Please reference your comment. Thanks.
    – ninamag
    Aug 15, 2020 at 20:04

3 Answers 3


You ask "was [the Levi] waving and lifting-up somehow connected with a wave-offering?" based on Rashi's comment "in the same way that the guilt-offering of one afflicted with tzara’ath requires waving [the animal] while it is alive".

Here is how I would explain the connection

  • a metzora (one affected with tzaarat) had to undergo a purification process once healed. That involved shaving all his air, bathing in water and staying in his tent seven days (see Vayikra 14:8).

  • in our parasha, the Torah tells us how the Levites had to undergo a purification procedure similar to the metzora (explains Rashi to Bamidbar 8:7: because the Levites were serving in the Mishkan as atonement for the idol worship of the golden calf and both idol worship and the metzora are connected to death in various verses)

  • this is why Rashi connects both the waving of the Levi with the waving of the metzora's offering.

We see a similar analogy a verse before (8:10) where the community of Israel leans their hands on the Levites. Artscroll brings Divrei David (a commentary of Rashi by the Taz) who explains the Levites bodies were viewed as offerings on behalf of the entire nation of Israel (since they were chosen to assist in the Temple instead of all firstborns [Bamidbar 3:12]). Thus the entire nation served in the role of the owner of an offering who stands next to his sacrifice and leans his hands upon it.

  • this still does not answer my question: were the Levites or an animal sacrifice brought in their name "lifted up and waved" as a wave offering? I don't see Aaron & Moshe literally picking up each and every Levite and waving them before HaShem! May 28, 2018 at 19:29
  • The first two comments to your question above already answered they did. The Malbim comments on the impressive strength and stamina it took to do it. I thought you had rephrased your question at the end of it since you had already got the answer to the question in your title
    – mbloch
    May 28, 2018 at 19:53
  • @mbloch did the Malbim say at what age this was done to the levite, the literally picking them up and waving them around? Must the levite be at a certain age? Please reference a link to your comment. Thanks.
    – ninamag
    Aug 15, 2020 at 20:09

This waving can also be viewed with a symbolic interpretation (although this does not preclude the more literal understanding). This lifting and waving was a gesture in which Aharon essentially elevated his sons preparing them for their holy service. This idea is asserted by Rav Shimshon Raphael Hirsch on the pasuk (found here) who notes that the whole process was an expression of dedication and turning to Hashem.

He writes:

והניף אהרן וגו׳ – שלוש פעמים נעשית ״תנופה״ בחינוך זה של הלויים: בפסוקים יא, יג, טו. משמעות התנופה ידועה כביטוי של הקדשה, ייעוד והכוונה (עיין פירוש, שמות כט, כב–כה). הלויים כאן נכנסים לעבודתם על ידי שלוש הקדשות, כמבואר בפסוקים טז–יט: ישראל מקדיש אותם לה׳, ה׳ מקדיש אותם לאהרן, אהרן ובניו מקדישים אותם לעבודת המקדש. נמצא שהלויים תופסים את מעמדם וממלאים את תפקידם, בשם ה׳, בשם העם ובשם אהרן, ושלוש בחינות אלו של ייעודם מובאות לידיעתם על ידי שלוש התנופות. כאן בפסוקנו מופיעה תחילה הקדשת הלויים אל ה׳ על ידי ישראל: ״והניף וגו׳ לפני ה׳ מאת בני ישראל והיו לעבד את עבדת ה׳⁠ ⁠״

*Aharon shall lift up - Three times (it mentions how they were) "waved" with the training of the Leviim: in verses 11, 13 and 15. The implication is that the waving is an expression of dedication/holiness of their mission and intention (see the explanation on Exodus 29:22-25). The Leviim here entered into their service via three dedications like we explained in verses 16-19: Israel dedicates themselves to Hashem, Hashem presents them to Aharon, and Aharon and his sons dedicate them to the service in the sanctuary. So we find that the Leviim (lit.) grabbed their position and fulfilled their duties in the name of Hashem, in the name of the people and in the name of Aharon and these three relationships of their role was brought to their attention through these three wavings. Here in our verses it first appears that the Leviim are being dedicated to Hashem by the nation: "And Aharon shall offer the Levites before the Lord for an offering of the children of Israel, that they may carry out the service of Hashem."

  • how do you reconcile your answer to the first two comments of this question: "Moshe literally picked them up and waved them around" (by DonielF)" and "Moshe picked them up and waved them in the same way that the animal was literally picked up and moved in the various directions" (by sabbahillel).?
    – ninamag
    Aug 17, 2020 at 12:05
  • They are choosing to interpret it in the literal sense. Rav Shimshon Raphael Hirsch sees it with a more symbolic interpretation
    – Dov
    Aug 17, 2020 at 12:10
  • It could well be that there are other commentaries that expressly detail how it was physically done, but I haven't yet seen them and this interpretation made a lot of sense to me.
    – Dov
    Aug 17, 2020 at 12:12
  • The symbolic interpretation isn't excluding the literal one, though. Rav Hirsch gives symbolic explanations for most or all of the mitzvos, but that doesn't mean (G-d forbid) that they're not performed in practice.
    – Meir
    Aug 17, 2020 at 19:23
  • @Meir I never implied that the literal interpretation didn't exist - all I said was that he chooses to explain it in a more symbolic way. The downvote is a bit harsh
    – Dov
    Aug 17, 2020 at 20:41

The Hertz Chumash (page 606) says that "the Levites were probably led backwards and forwards by Aharon in the direction of the Holy of Holies, or he may have only waved his hand over them."

On the Chabad web site, Rashi's comment is about the [cleansing of a] metzora (leper) and the wave offering brought by the metzora (one afflicted with tzara’ath): "in the same way that the guilt-offering of one afflicted with tzara’ath requires waving [the animal] while it is alive." (He says there were three wavings for the sons of Aharon - Kohath, Gershon and Merari.)

One comment I saw referenced 2 Kings 5.11 ("But Naaman was wroth, and went away, and said: 'Behold, I thought: He will surely come out to me, and stand, and call on the name of the L-RD his G-D, and wave his hand over the place, and recover the leper." Eventually, Naaman was cleansed and had faith in HaShem. 5.15, 17 but what stands out to me is the humility eventually shown by Naaman: 5.13, 14 "if the prophet had bid thee do some great thing [...] when he saith to thee: Wash, and be clean?' 14 Then went he down, and dipped himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the saying of the man of G-D; and his flesh came back like unto the flesh of a little child, and he was clean. ")

Anyways, I was thinking that perhaps Aharon "lifted and waved" his sons [when they were at a young age] as representatives of the Tribe of Levi.

  • Didnt korach complain about being lifted up and waved about.
    – interested
    Aug 23, 2020 at 10:42

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