Don Isaac Abravanel (1437-1508) was a preeminent Jewish thinker, scholar, and prolific Biblical
commentator. Exodus chapter 28 begins with God’s appointment of Aaron, Moses’ brother, to the
priesthood, together with Aaron’s four sons. Abravanel questions the timing of this divine promotion:
Why now?

“And you shall bring near unto you Aaron your brother, and his sons with
him, from among the Children of Israel, that they minister unto Me…”

At the end of the last chapter, the Bible discusses the obligation to daily light the lampstand in the
Tabernacle. Further, we find regarding the lampstand: “Aaron and his sons shall set it in order…It shall
be a statute forever throughout their generations on the behalf of the Children of Israel.” Thus, for
Abravanel, the appointment of Aaron should have taken place in the previous chapter and not here.

Here is Abravanel’s approach. “And you shall bring near unto you Aaron” answers the question why the
commandment to light the lampstand in the Tabernacle was not given to any Hebrew who so desired.
Instead, our verse states categorically, the job went to Aaron and his sons – exclusively.

Let us explain. God told Moses here, in so many words, that in terms of piety and spirituality, no Jew had
come close to Moses’ level, except for Aaron his brother. On account of Aaron’s religiosity, he could
freely enter the Tabernacle.

How do we know that Aaron had reached transcendence, akin to Moses? Abravanel derives this from an
earlier verse when the Hebrews camped at Mount Sinai: “…And you shall come up, you and Aaron with
you, but not the priests and the people…lest He break forth upon them.”

Having established Aaron’s otherworldliness and prophetic prowess, the Creator takes the next logical
step when He bids Moses: “And you shall bring near unto you Aaron your brother, and his sons with
him…that they minister unto Me.” God publicly acknowledged Aaron’s greatness by handing him the
reins to the Tabernacle.

But does the thing smell of nepotism, Abravanel boldly asks? Would people murmur against Moses,
charging him with cronyism? No such concern arises. Why? If Moses was simply intent on turning the
Tabernacle into a family business, he would have put in his own two sons Gershom and Eliezer, and not
his brother and nephews. Clearly, Abravanel learns, the great prophet gave the Tabernacle ministry to
Aaron, precisely as God had directed. In a similar vein, before Moses died, he called on his assistant,
Joshua, to serve as the Hebrews’ king.

Abravanel’s World discusses why the Creator chose only one family (Aaron’s) to serve in the Tabernacle.