Thursday, July 18, 2019

Her Son Hur, His Grandson, and His Actions!

On the 15th of Tammuz, we observe the yahrzeit (anniversary of the day of death) of Hur, a relatively unsung hero from Biblical times, who was the first Jew to die al Kiddush Hashem, sanctifying God’s holy name.

The Bible (Exodus 17:10 and 12) tells us that Hur, along with Aaron, held up Moses’s hands, as he prayed to God for the Children of Israel’s victory over the Amalekites. Rashi, citing the Talmud (Sotah 11b) explains that Hur is the son of Miriam and Caleb, which would make Hur Moses’ nephew. In later references (Exodus 31:2, 35:30 and 38:22) Hur is identified as the grandfather of Betzalel, the architect of and chief contractor of the Tabernacle.

Later in Scriptures (Chronicles I 2:18) Hur’s mother’s name is identified as Efrat, not Miriam. The next verse teaches us that Azuvah died and Caleb married Efrat, and together they begot Hur.

The aforementioned Talmudic source claims that both Azuvah and Efrat were pseudonyms of Miriam. Miriam was called Azuvah because she was “neglected” when she was struck with tza’ra’at. When the verse says that Azuvah died, it refers to this incident (the Talmud in other contexts claims that one who contracts tza’ra’at is considered as if they are “somewhat dead.”) After her recovery, she was called Efrat, a reference to Miriam’s role in aiding the Children of Israel to be fruitful and multiply.

In the tragic episode of the Golden Calf, after Aaron was approached to craft the Golden Calf, he asked the petitioners to bring him gold, which the sages understood as a stalling tactic to allow Moses to return and end the challenge. When Moses did not return, Aaron took the gold and crafted the idol. The verse then states (Exodus 32:5), “And when Aaron saw it, he built an altar before it…” Rashi suggests, based on the Talmud (Sanhedrin 7a), that what Aaron saw that impacted him so deeply was that the petitioners murdered Hur after he had rebuked them for worshipping the Golden Calf. Hur would henceforth be regarded as the first Jew to die sanctifying God’s name, when he attempted to prevent the commission of the cardinal sin of idolatry.

Moses shattered the Tablets of the Law on the 17th of Tammuz, as a result of witnessing the nation worship the Golden Calf. It would seem logical that Hur’s death occurred a few days prior.

May Hur’s memory, and that of all those who perished sanctifying God’s name, endure as a blessing.

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