Parshas VaYakheil/Pekudei - Children of Miriam

By Rabbi Zvi Teichman

Posted on 03/09/18

Parshas HaShavua Divrei Torah sponsored by
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Moshe informs the nation that G-d has selected Betzalel to lead the team effort of constructing the intricate vessels and components of the Mishkan, the Tabernacle. Moshe describes how Betzalel possessed a G-dly spirit that invested him with great wisdom, insight, and knowledge, who was not only a skilled artisan but a talented teacher as well.

In delineating Betzalel’s lineage, the Torah deviates from the norm in merely reporting who his father was but it lists his paternal grandfather as well.

בצלאל בן אורי בן חור למטה יהודה (שמות לה ל),  Betzalel son of Uri son of Chur, of the tribe of Yehudah.

Rashi seeking to address this anomaly enlightens us by apprising that  Chur was, 'בנה של מרים', the son of Miriam. The Torah wanted us to realize that Betzalel merited this greatness due to his illustrious and pious grandmother, Miriam.

In two other places when Chur is mentioned, Rashi once again emphasizes that he was the son of Miriam.

When engaging the enemy Amalek, after their surprise attack in Refidim, Moshe instructs Yehoshua to select worthy combatants from the nation who Yehoshua will lead in battle against the enemy while Moshe will situate himself upon the top of a hill with his arms raised to inspire the fighters towards victory. Moshe requests of his brother, Aharon, and their nephew, Chur, to assist him in supporting his ‘heavy’ hands. Rashi here tells us that Chur was ‘the son of Miriam’, and adds an additional piece of information: Chur, בנה של מרים היה, ‘was the son of Miriam’, and וכלב בעלה, as well as the son of, ‘Calev, her husband’. (שם יז י)

Rashi felt compelled for some reason to let us know that not only was he the worthy son of Miriam, but of her husband Calev as well. Why is this fact mentioned here and not when speaking of Chur as the grandfather of Betzalel?

When Moshe first ascends Mount Sinai to receive the Luchos, the Tablets, he directs the elders to remain with the people to lead and respond to their queries until he returns, with Aharon and Chur assuming the primary responsibility for them. With the mention of the name Chur, Rashi again obliges that, בנה של מרים היה, ‘he was the son of Miriam’, this time adding: ואביו כלב בן יפונה, his father was Calev the son of Yefunah, quoting a verse in Chronicles that states:  and Calev took to himself Ephras, and she bore to him Chur, citing the Talmud that reveals that Ephras is none other than Miriam. (שם כד יד)

We now have all the pieces of the puzzle called ‘Chur’. He was the son of Miriam, whose husband was Calev, who was also the father of Chur.

Why in the initial reference to Chur, did Rashi word his description of Chur being the son of Miriam and her ‘husband’ Calev, and not state clearly that he was his ‘father’?

Why at the base of Mount Sinai does Rashi refer to Calev as Chur’s ‘father’ omitting that Calev was also the ‘husband’ of Miriam?

Finally, why when describing Chur as the grandfather of Betzalel does Rashi allude only to his mother Miriam with no mention now of Calev whatsoever?

Chur was clearly a remarkable young man. He was chosen together with Aharon to assist Moshe in the battle against Amalek. He was selected from amongst the entire nation to substitute for Moshe in his absence, together with his uncle Aharon, in leading the people. At the fateful episode of the worshipping of the Golden Calf we are taught that the people first approached Chur, before confronting Aharon, to assist them with fashioning the Golden Calf. Chur resolutely refused to, exclaiming he was willing to be martyred rather than submit to their request. In frustration the sinners summarily dispensed with him by killing him.

He clearly grew up in an inspired home. What do we know of his family life being raised by the saintly Miriam and the courageous Calev?

The Talmud tells us that Miriam was a sickly woman, possessing a greenish complexion due to her illness, who was shunned and abandoned by all as a suitable marriage partner. It was Calev who altruistically married her and tended to her lovingly, nurturing her as if she was his own child, returning her to robust health and magnificent beauty.  

Calev, the Talmud, reports was an extremely disciplined individual, who was uncompromising in his beliefs, and was known as a ‘straight’ person who couldn’t be influenced negatively. This trait became apparent in his struggle with the spies and his unstinting resistance to their devious plans.(סוטה יא:- יב.)

Miriam dedicated her life to the preservation of life and the continuum of Jewish survival. She brazenly took her father to task for divorcing her mother Yocheved lest they bring children into a dismal world of infanticide and slavery. She defiantly challenged her father to beget children into this world despite the bleakness of the situation and to place his faith in G-d who will assure the future. She risks her life to defy Pharaoh’s decrees, inspiring the nation to forge ahead in maintaining a family life and bringing more Jewish souls into the world despite the danger. She is indeed called אפרת, Ephras, with its connotation of being פרה ורבה, fruitful and multiplying, on behalf of her life’s mission to inspire the future of our people.

Children who are raised in a home where there is demonstrable harmony and love among the parents, will model their behaviors and attitudes towards others in kind.

Amalek seeks to cause divisiveness in the universe and within the Jewish nation in particular. They attack us in רפידים, Refidim. The word רפידים when jumbled spells פרידים, single isolated units. They cast doubt in our minds with their suddenly exposing our vulnerability, which led to a distance from G-d and division among our ranks. In order to succeed in defeating Amalek it was necessary to enlist individuals who promoted unity with G-d and between themselves. Aharon the promoter of peace, together with Chur, who was inspired by the exquisite devotion his parents displayed to one another that he was witness to as he grew up, which generated within him a selfless love towards others , were well equipped and worthy of supporting Moshe’s hands in quashing the spiritual forces of Amalek.(חסד לאברהם יתרו)

When describing Chur in this role Rashi accents Miriam, and her ‘husband’ Calev, the parents of Chur, because it was that relationship, as husband and wife specifically, that invigorated Chur to develop healthy attitudes towards others.

In assuming a leadership role in guiding the people during Moshe’s absence, the key to success is remaining steadfast in one’s beliefs. Those who waffle in their principles will be easily manipulated and influenced to act incorrectly. One of the most significant factors in raising children who are capable of choosing wisely is if they see in their parent no hypocrisy or compromise in their core beliefs. No wonder Chur was appointed as an unflinching leader amongst his people who could be trusted to ward off the temptation to succumb to popular belief, bribes or the desire to please the populace simply to gain popularity. It was that unintimidated commitment to his values that powered him to give up his life for what he believed in.

It was thus, as Rashi here points out in this instance, Chur the son of Miriam who had a ‘father’ like Calev, who would be most worthy to be entrusted with the task of leading the people.

The merit to transmit effectively to future progeny the values we cherish and the requisite talents they will need to survive in a world of chaos and hedonism is rooted in our spiritual genes bequeathed to us by our illustrious ancestors who breathed that hope, who longed, prayed and consistently lived by those values.

When the Torah attempts to instill that notion by displaying the supernatural skills beheld by the very young and inexperienced Betzalel and linking that ‘inherited’ talent to his grandfather Chur, Rashi directs us to the nucleus of that mighty power plant, with the simple and exquisite association to Chur his having been fortunate to be ‘the son of Miriam’ whose entire being radiated hope for the future.

Just as Betzalel embodied these qualities that enabled him to construct an abode for the Divine Presence, so too it is with these traits that we will succeed in bring the Divine Presence into our personal Mishkan; our homes.

We are told that Dovid HaMelech, King David, hails from Miriam as well.

May we all merit becoming ‘children of Miriam’, and hopefully helping bring her beloved grandchild, the Melech HaMoshiach, speedily in our days.


צבי יהודה טייכמאן