איש על דגלו באותות לבית אבותם יחנו בני ישראל מנגד סביב לאוהל מועד יחנו
Every man of the people of Israel shall camp by his own standard, with the ensign of their father’s house; far from the Tent of Meeting shall they camp
In the Midrash (Numbers Rabbah 2:2): This refers to the verse (Psalms 20:6), “נרננה בישועתך ובשם אלקינו נדגול” (We will shout for joy in Thy salvation, and in the name of our God we will raise our standards)
Our master explains that the Midrash wanted to teach us the difference between the flags that the Children of Israel followed on their journeys and the flags that all the other nations raise on the day of battle. To them a flag is merely a sign by which all the warriors can orient themselves and find their place in battle. When the divisions of their armies are organized, individual soldiers are not arranged by family origins, but are distributed randomly into divisions and battalions. Not so the Children of Israel and their flags, for each man travels alongside his own family. The Israelites dwell among their own tribes, and the Eternal dwells in honor among them. The sages of the Talmud infer (Yevamot 42a) from the verse (Genesis 17:7) “להיות לך לאלקים ולזרעך אחריך” (to be God to you and your descendants after you) that a woman may not remarry until it can be determined whether, if a child were born, it would be the child of her first husband born after nine months, or the child or her second husband born after seven months. And Rashi comments that the Divine Presence dwells only among those whose legitimacy can be confirmed, those whose future offspring will have an unquestionable lineage.
The Scripture therefore writes “איש על דגלו באותות לבית אבותם” (each with the ensign of his father’s house), because it is not enough that there just be ensigns. The ensigns must be “of his father’s house,” representing the source of his existence. This is not the practice of those schooled in battle and of those who draw the bow of warriors. That is why the Midrash identifies this verse with the verse “נרננה בישועתך ובשם אלקינו נדגול” (we shall shout for joy in Thy victory, and in the name of our God we will raise our standard) because, as it is written in the next verse (Psalms 20:8) “אלה ברכב ואלה בסוסים” (some boast of chariots and some boast of horses) for they wage war with chariots and cavalry “ואנחנו בשם אלקינו נזכיר” (but we boast of the name of our God) for he has put His sanctuary in our midst. That is why the Children of Israel carry the ensigns of their fathers’ houses and go forward while surrounding the Tabernacle where the glory of the Eternal may be seen, for that is where He has selected His dwelling place. (שביבי אש)
ואלה תולדות אהרן ומשה ביום דבר ה’ את משה בהר סיני
These are the generations of Aaron and Moses in the day that the Lord spoke with Moses in Mount Sinai
Rashi comments: The Scripture mentions the sons of Aaron only who were referred to as the offspring of Moses, because it was he that taught them Torah.
One may ask: did Moses not teach Torah to all the people of Israel, so that they may all be considered his offspring? Why then were only the sons of Aaron referred to as the offspring of Moses?
And concerning the passage “ביום דבר ה’ את משה בהר סיני” (on the day that the Eternal spoke with Moses at Mount Sinai), Rashi comments: These (the sons of Aaron) became Moses’s children, because he taught them what he had heard from the Almighty.
This is also difficult, because, according to Rashi’s explanation, the Scripture should have written “ביום דבר משה את בני אהרן בהר סני” (in the day that Moses spoke with the sons of Aaron). But were it not for the words of Rashi, our master would have said that the reason that the sons of Aaron were also considered to be the sons of Moses is that the sons of Aaron died instead of Moses and Aaron on the day on which Moses finished the construction of the Tabernacle.
The sons of Aaron venerated the Holy One of Israel, as Moses then said to Aaron (Leviticus 10:3): “הוא אשר דבר ה’ בקרובי אקדש” (this is what the Lord meant when He said, “Through those near to Me I will show Myself holy”). As Rashi comments there, Moses told Aaron: “I had already known that the life of someone close to the Holy One would be taken when the Sanctuary was built, but I thought that it would be either myself or Aaron, for it is written (Exodus 29:43): “ונעדתי לך שמה ונקדש בכבודי” (and there I will meet with the children of Israel; and [the Sanctuary] will be sanctified by My glory), but now I see that they were greater than either you or me.”
Thus, when Nadab and Abihu brought up the strange fire to the altar, they died in place of Moses and Aaron. A son is considered as the knee of his father, because a father is built up from the son, even after the father dies, so that the father’s flame is not extinguished. Thus, anyone who dies in place of another, by having added to the life of that person, may be considered as if he were his son.
The Scripture says “ואלה תולדות אהרן ומשה” (these are the generations of Aaron and Moses), because, having saved the life of Moses, they may be considered to have been the sons of Moses. Thus, when the Scripture refers to “the day that the Lord spoke with Moses at Mount Sinai,” it is referring to the day when God said to Moses “ונעדתי לך שמה ונקדש בכבודי” (and there I will meet with the children of Israel; and [the Sanctuary] will be sanctified by My glory). Because the sons of Aaron died instead of Moses, they became sons to Moses, because, Moses was able to remain alive because of them. (שביבי אש)