“These are the heads of the fathers’ houses: The sons of Reuven (Reuben), Israel’s firstborn: Chanoch (Enoch), Pallu, Chezron and Kari, these are the families of Reuven. And the sons of Shimon (Simeon/Simon): Yemuel and Yamin and Ohad and Yachin and Tzochar and Shaul (Saul), the son of the Canaanites, these are the families of Shimon. And these are the names of the sons of Levi after their generations: Gershon, Kehat and Merari; the years of Levi’s life were a hundred and thirty-seven years.” (Shemot/Exodus 6:14-16)
Sforno asks: Why does Torah only mention the names of Reuven and Shimon and their children, but for Levi, Torah says “these are the names,” provides the names of three generations and gives Levi’s age of death?
Sforno suggests that Reuven and Shimon had righteous children, but their grandchildren and great grandchildren were not as special. However, for Levi, all of the generations that followed were righteous – his great grandchildren were Aharon (Aaron), Moshe (Moses) and Miriam. Sforno suggests that Levi’s longevity, the 137 years specified in Torah, is the reason for his exceptional progeny through the generations. He lived long enough to raise his grandchildren (Amram’s generation) and to impart to them the greatness of his father Yaakov (Jacob), becoming a living link to the Patriarch.
Writes Rabbi Yissocher Frand on torah.org: “Targum Yonasan ben Uziel says that Yocheved was 94 years old when Levi died. We can speculate that Amram must have been younger than Yocheved (she was his aunt), perhaps 20 to 25 years younger. That would make him, say 74 years old (approximately) when Levi died. This means that the extra years of Levi’s life – that made all the difference in Amram’s life (over that of his cousins from the other tribes whose grandfathers died when they were younger) came well into his adult years. Amram was benefiting from the presence of his grandfather when he was well past 50.”
Write Rabbis Yisroel and Osher Anshel Jungreis in Torah for Your Table: “How critical it is for us to connect our children to our past, to our grandparents and great-grandparents, to relate stories of our families and to teach our children to emulate the chesed, goodness, and devotion of our ancestors. If children are to thrive, they need spiritual role models to sustain and invigorate them.”
As parents, if we are fortunate enough to have living parents, we should make every effort to forge relationships between our children and our parents. A grandparent’s meaningful and loving involvement in our children’s lives can have a long lasting influence.