Nehemiah – Chapter 12

The Book of Lists

By Rabbi Jack Abramowitz

This chapter starts with yet another list. Verses 1-26 list the kohanim (priests) and Leviim (Levites) who returned to Israel with Zerubavel. When the Jerusalem wall was dedicated, the Leviim were summoned from all over the country to sing and play their instruments at the celebration. The kohanim and Leviim purified themselves, as well as the people, the gates and the wall itself. Nehemiah brought the leaders of Jerusalem close to the wall, where he had placed some loaves from sacrifices of thanks to G-d. He then led a procession to the Dung Gate. They proceeded from there to the Spring Gate, then the Water Gate, where there was another loaf of thanks.

Nehemiah and half the people followed as the second loaf was carried to the Tower of the Ovens and from there to the Wide Wall. They proceeded from the Ephraim Gate to the Old Gate (or “Gate of the Old”), to a number of other checkpoints, ultimately coming to rest at the Prison Gate. Nehemiah stood at the Temple with half the leaders of the people and the thanksgiving loaves. They offered many sacrifices to thank G-d and they rejoiced greatly. The sound of men, women and children rejoicing in Jerusalem could be heard from far off.

On that day, they appointed officers over the storehouses of the various tithes and other portions. Nehemiah arranged for these gifts to be brought to the Temple rather than requiring the Levites to go around collecting them as before. The priests and Levites were responsible for running the Temple and all that it entailed, including the Levites’ singing and manning the gates. Everybody gave gifts to the singers and gatekeepers in a daily rotation. The Israelites gave tithes to the Levites, who gave a tenth of that to the priests.

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