Betzalel was the builder of the Mishkan. His grandfather was Chur. Chur’s father was Calev and Chur’s mother was Moshe’s sister, Miriam.
According to the Concordoncia, Chur’s name appears in Sefer Shemos on five occasions. He is first introduced in Parshas B’Shalach (17:10 and 17:12) as the one who, together with Aharon, held up Moshe’s hands during the war with Amalek. Chur and Aharon are again mentioned in Parshas Mishpatim (24:14), this time as the two who would stay behind and be available for resolving difficult questions while Moshe ascended Har Sinai. The last three occasions in which Chur is mentioned are all in the context of Betzalel’s lineage; three separate times the pasuk mentions Betzalel ben Uri ben Chur (Ki Sisa 31:2; VaYakhel 35:30; and Pekudei 38:22).
Of these five occasions, Rashi tells us who Chur is only the first, second and fourth times. Why not all five times, or just the first? Furthermore, as explained below, Rashi’s three comments are not the same each time. If the point is to identify who Chur is why should Rashi’s comments differ from one another? Here are the three times Rashi comments:
1. Chur holds up Moshe’s hands during the war with Amalek. Rashi says Chur is Miriam’s son and her husband is Calev. Some older editions of Rashi say merely that Chur is Miriam’s son and leave out the further information that her husband was Calev. As will be demonstrated, leaving this out is an easier version to understand.
2. Chur is in charge while Moshe is gone. Rashi says Chur is Miriam’s son; that his father is Calev; and Rashi continues by quoting a pasuk in Divrei Hayamim proving that these are the relationships.
3. Chur is named as Betzalel’s grandfather in Parshas Ki Sisa (Rashi: no comment), VaYakhel (Rashi: “he was Miriam’s son”) and Pekudei (Rashi: no comment).
Rashi’s comments always address difficulties in the text of the pasuk; Rashi (on Chumash) is not a historian or an essayist. What questions are these three comments answering?
1. During the war with Amalek Chur is mentioned in Chumash for the first time. The question is, simply: Who is this person? Answers Rashi, he is Miriam’s son. [See below for discussion of the edition which includes the statement that Miriam’s husband was Calev.]
2. While Moshe is gone Chur is elevated to a position of authority over all of Klal Yisroel. Together with Aharon, Chur is charged with being the chief judge until Moshe returns. The question is: How do we know Chur is qualified for this. Rashi tells us his father was Calev, his mother was Miriam, and the proof is from Divrei Hayamim. He is qualified.
3. In Parshas VaYakhel, just a few psukim after Betzalel ben Uri ben Chur, the Torah also mentions Ahaliav ben Achisamach as an important figure in the building of the mishkan. (35:34). The question is: Why does the Torah mention Betzalel’s grandfather but not Ahaliav’s? Rashi answers that Betzalel’s grandfather was a special person, Chur, and therefore he merits special mention. In Ki Sisa and Pekudei there is no question to answer so Rashi is silent.
Some further thoughts and questions.
– According to the edition which adds the comment in B’Shalach that Miriam’s husband was Calev it is difficult to understand why Rashi says so there without bringing any proof and then says it again in Parshas Mishpatim and does bring a proof. Also, according to that edition, Rashi here says Calev was Miriam’s husband, but in Mishpatim Rashi says Calev was Chur’s father – both statements are true, but why the slight variation in emphasis? [A suggestion for the reason Rashi adds in Mishpatim the information about Calev: The previous Rashi explains that Klal Yisroel was fasting and that three people are needed to lead the people at such a time (hence our minhag to have three people stand at the bimah during Kol Nidre, see O.C. 619:4). Perhaps, just as when three people are called up for Krias HaTorah one is a Kohen, one is Levi and one is a Yisroel, so, too, when three are leading the davening on a fast day we would want one to be a Kohen, one a Levi and one a Yisroel. Rashi’s comment about Calev is so that we would know that Chur is a Yisroel – he comes from Calev, and, taken together with Aharon and Moshe, Klal Yisroel would be represented by a Kohen (Aharon), Levi (Moshe) and Yisroel (Chur). I have found no support in Chazal for this idea.]
– We answered question 3 by referring to the mention of Ahaliav a few psukim later. However, Ahaliav is also mentioned a few psukim later than Betzalel in Parshas Ki Sisa and Rashi does not feel compelled to explain why Betzalel’s grandfather is mentioned but not Ahaliav’s. See L’Pshuto Shel Rashi.
– There are three additional occasions at which Betzalel is mentioned but his lineage is not mentioned. (36:1, 36:2 and 37:1) Why does the Torah sometimes mention his lineage and sometimes not?
– An additional mention of Chur in Sefer Shemos appears in Rashi only, not in a pasuk. Rashi in Parshas Ki Sisa (32:5 and 32:6) says that Chur was killed by the people when he refused to capitulate to their demands that led to the Chet HaEgel. Perhaps there is a connection between this tragic event and his grandson becoming the builder of the Mishkan, at least in the sense of the Mishkan being a reaction/kaporo to the Chet HaEgel.
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