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  • Writer's pictureLeann Shamash

Aaron and His Four Sons

Updated: Mar 2, 2022

With Parshat Pekudei we complete the book of Shemot. It is with precision and drama that the final touches are put onto the Mishkan and the cloud of God's presence settles over it.

Aaron and his four sons are separated, trained and then blessed and anointed for their work in the Mishkan.

I was struck by Shemot 40:12-15 which speaks about dressing and anointing Aaron and his four sons. I wanted to understand what how they felt about this important (and dangerous) work in the presence of God that they were chosen to do. Much of what I wrote was colored by what we will read in a few weeks in Sefer Vayikra, where two of Aaron's sons will be killed instantly when they go to make their sacrifices. This made me wonder about how easy it would be to make a mistake upon beginning this work. Don't we all have to grow into a job?

Doesn't it take time to become accustomed to new work?

So, come with me to the camp, come with me to the mishkan, almost completed and sit with Aaron and his sons for a few moments. Forgive any errors, for I am no scholar, but my heart is with Aaron and his sons.

Once a house was built.

So perfect,

so lovely;

a home that could travel

in a tent,

in a desert,

in a time of transition

of a stiff necked people

of a nation,

of a nation under God,

a nation of priests.

The house was made of

dolphin skin,

silver and gold

wood and wonder.

A triumph,

a creation.

A traveling house for God

God must have looked on

as the house was created.

It went according to plan

welded and sewn

And perhaps God said

that it was good,

very, very good.

And one day

a cloud came to rest

on the beautiful house

in the desert.

A protective cover;

it filled the space

with holiness,

with protection

with fear.

And it was very good.


Once there was a man

who had four sons

in a nation of stiff necked people,

in a nation of priests

he was the priest's priest.

Once there was a man with four sons.

Each son different,

each had a name,

but the people referred to them

As the father

and the four sons

or the father

and the two sons.

The father and the four

saw the activity

humming around them;

golds and purples

linens and silks

wood and jewels


They saw from afar

and from the center

for they were at the center,

weren't they?

One day the stiff necked people

saw the cloud


and they knew that

something had changed.

They felt a presence

and a hush spread

over the camp.

It was time to separate,

to isolate,

to consecrate.

And so the man and his four sons

waited at the entrance

in the center




The man and his four sons

trembled among themselves

They sat alone and prepared.

Maybe they worried?

Maybe they whispered

among themselves?

Did they recall

family stories


they prepared for their debut?

Did they doubt themselves,

for they were but novices

and it was only they

who would stand

by the beautiful house

with the cloud hovering

and the fire burning.

The time approached.

The man

and his four sons

were bathed

and clothed

in white

They bowed their heads

and received a blessing.

And oil was poured

upon their heads

and they were pure

and they were frightened.

And there was evening

and there was morning.

And it was good.

And sweat mixed with the oil

that dripped from their brows.

They were ready;

pure of heart

but one can never know

the intentions of the heart.

We are not angels

We are not seraphs

We are not golden.

For we are but human.

And the father waits in his finery

and his four sons

wait in white,

oil dripping,

blessed and consecrated,

surrounded by the house

enveloped by the cloud,

apart from the people

the fire burns

They are ready,

as ready as can be.

But are they?

From the Holman Bible (Wikemedia). Taken from My Jewish Learning

You shall bring Aaron and his sons forward to the entrance of the Tent of Meeting and wash them with the water.

Put the sacral vestments on Aaron, and anoint him and consecrate him, that he may serve Me as priest.

Then bring his sons forward, put tunics on them,

and anoint them as you have anointed their father, that they may serve Me as priests. This their anointing shall serve them for everlasting priesthood throughout the ages.

Exodus 40:12-15. Translation from Sefaria

For interesting midrash on the time that Aaron and his four sons became priests visit:

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