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Levite

From Academic Kids

In the Jewish tradition, a Levite (לוי "Attached", Standard Hebrew Levi, Tiberian Hebrew LēwÓ) is a member of the Hebrew tribe of Levi. The Levites were the only one of the Israelite tribes who received cities but no tribal land when Joshua led the Israelites into the land of Canaan. The Tribe of Levi served particular religious duties for the Israelites. In return, the landed tribes were expected to give tithe to the Levites.

The tribe is named after Levi one of the twelve sons of Jacob (also called Israel.) Levi had three sons: Gershon, Kohath, and Merari (Genesis 46:11).

Kohath's son Amram was the father of both Moses and Aaron. The descendants of Aaron: the Kohanim ("Priests"), had the special role as priests in the Tabernacle in the wilderness and also in the Temple in Jerusalem. The remaining Levites (Levi'yim in Hebrew), divided into three groups (the descendents of Gershon, or Gershonites, the descendants of Kohath, or Kohathites, and the descendants of Merari, or Merarites) each filled different roles in the Tabernacle and later in the Temple services.

Levites and priests may have been responsible for stamping the LMLK seals on Judean storage jars during the reign of Hezekiah (circa 700 BC). The associated Personal seals on the same jars may have represented various courses of Levites overseeing the proper production of 10 percent for tithing in the same manner that modern rabbis (mashgihim) approve kosher wine (Grena, 2004, pp. 75-6).

Even today, Levites are considered to have additional rights and obligations compared to lay people. For instance, Kohanim are eligible to read the rolls of Torah first, followed by the Levites.

The significance of the tribe membership and the relation to the same ancestors have led Levite to adopt a common last name, to signify their title. Because of diverse geographical locations, the names have several variations:

  • Levi - Hebrew for "Levite", common among Levites of Northern African and Middle Eastern origin
  • Levin - a Russian variation, also common in Scandinavia
  • Levine - a Russian variation. In some cases, Americanized to be pronouced as li-VYNE (li vīn'; rhymes with "divine")
  • Levinski, Lewinski and Levinsky - Polish variations
  • Lewin and Levinthal - German variations

References

pl:Lewici

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