Who was the man named Hur?

Series: Insights into People in the Torah
The Torah Portion of “ Mishpatim” Exodus 21:1–24:18

Moshe Kempinski

Judaism Sefer Torah Dedication
Sefer Torah Dedication
צילום: PR

Moshe is called up to Mount Sinai to receive the tablets of Hashem’s law and Moshe leaves two people as spiritual guardians

“And Hashem said to Moshe, "Come up to Me to the mountain and remain there, and I will give you the stone tablets, the Law and the commandments, which I have written to instruct them."So Moshe and Joshua, his servant, arose, and Moshe ascended to the mount of God. And to the elders he said, "Wait for us here until we return to you, and here Aaron and Hurare with you; whoever has a case, let him go to them."( Exodus 23:12-14)

Moshe knew he was leaving his people who had only recently escaped from Egypt. He knew their sense of confidence and spiritual fortitude was shaky. He decides to leave two people as spiritual protectors, Aaron and Hur.

We can understand his choice of Aaron but who is this man called Hur? Interestingly, this is not the first time we encounter Hur. Previously in the Torah portion of Beshalach we read;

Joshua did as Moshe had told him, to fight against Amalek; and Moshe, Aaron, and Hur ascended to the top of the hill. It came to pass that when Moshe would raise his hand, Israel would prevail, and when he would lay down his hand, Amalek would prevail         Now Moshe hands were heavy; so they took a stone and placed it under him, and he sat on it. Aaron andHur supported his hands, one from this side, and one from that side; so he was with his hands in faith until sunset  ( Exodus 17:10-12) .

Here again the people of Israel encounter an external enemy and they look to Moshe for spiritual strength. Moshe turns to Aaron and Hur to help with that spiritual uplifting.

Furthermore we will read that the one chosen to build the tabernacle was Betzalel,  who we then discover is  in fact the grandson of Hur;

See, I have called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah" ( Exodus 31:21),".

Who is this man called Hur and why would Moshe places him next to him in the midst of the battle with Amalek? Why does he place him in charge of the spiritual nature of the people of Israel together with Aaron when Moshe goes up to "meet" Hashem at the top of Mount Sinai?

 In addition why must we be told that the man called Betzalel in charge of building the tabernacle is the grandson of this man called Hur? 

In the book of Chronicles we learn that Hur was the son of Calev (Caleb) and Ephrat " And Azubah died, and Caleb took to himself Ephrath, and she bore him Hur.And Hur begot Uri, and Uri begot Bezalel."( I Chronicles 2:19-20)

Our tradition tells us that this Ephrat, the wife of Calev, was in fact Miriam the sister of Moshe ( Sotah 11b). The midrash explains that Ephrat is another name of Miriam "Ephrat is Miriam... since Israel was fruitful and multiplied (paru) because of her.” (Midrash – Shmot Rabba 1:17).

Clearly this man was not inconsequential, yet he soon disappears from the Biblical text.

We are told that when Moshe ascends the mountain, Aaron and Hur are placed in charge. Yet when Moshe returns after the sin of the golden calf, Hur is absent.

The sin of the Golden calf begins when three thousand of the Israelites ( a mere 1% of the population) said to Aaron, “Come, make gods for us, who shall go before us; as for this Moshe, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.”. Clearly these people were not creating an idol to replace Hashem but rather one that would replace Moshe, who was still up on the Mount.

The midrash then explains;" Hur, the son of Caleb, arose and chastised them. They immediately arose and killed him. (Tanchuma T'zaveh 10:10). Hur’s passion could not let him stand back and allow this desecration to occur. He stood up to them and paid with his life.

This, then, is the reason Hur is mentioned in connection to the building of the tabernacle. After Hashem accepts the repentance of the people who stood by and let the 3,000 rebels engage in the idolatry, He commands the construction of the tabernacle by Betzalel. In the words of the midrash" When Israel wished to commit idolatry, he (Hur) offered his soul for the sake of God, and would not allow them (to sin). They rose against him and killed him. God said to him "By your life I will repay you."

Here was the son of Calev, the man of “a different spirit” who had the courage to stand against the people during the sin of the spies. Perhaps one can wonder if it was the memory of his murdered son that also gave Calev the strength to stand against his own unruly and threatening mob.

This was the young man Moshe chose to stand with him as a sign of unwavering faith during the battle with Amalek. It was also this young man, Hur ,that Moshe would delegate to represent faithful obedience and courage when Moshe “disappeared for forty days.”.

Therefore it was fitting that this young man’s descendant would be tasked with the creation of  the place that would actually be a confirmation of Hashem’s forgiveness of Israel. This tabernacle would be the place of Hashem’s Presence and the connection to Hur was understandable. Hur in essence represented the necessary qualities that would merit the creation of such a place.

 Faithfulness, courage and unwavering obedience

LeRefuat Yehudit Bat Golda Yocheved and Yehudit bat Chaya Esther