Friday, January 25, 2013

The Hur Locker

It's fitting that we read the portion of Beshallach on the 15th of Shevat, Jewish Arbor Day, encountering Joshua for the first time (Exodus 17:9). He will be the one to ultimately bring the Israelites into the Promised Land and plant its trees. However, he is not the only prominent figure to debut in this portion; in the following verse, we read: "So Joshua did as Moses told him and fought with Amalek, while Moses, Aaron and Hur went up to the peak." Moses, 80 years young, needs support for his arms as he raises the staff of God, but whom does he choose? His 83-year-old big brother, Aaron, and the mysterious Hur.

A quick consultation of the First Book of Chronicles, Chapter 2, tells us that Hur was from the tribe of Judah, a first cousin of Aaron's father-in-law, Amminadab. He would seem to be the last of his generation, the grandchildren of those who came down to Egypt with Jacob in their youth. Why does Moses recruit men older than he to assist him? 

Let us set this question aside for a moment as we consider another interesting genealogical detail from First Chronicles. In Chapter 7 (22-27) , we find that Nun, Joshua's father, is the son of Elishama, a tribal prince. Thus, we find Moses recruiting a prince's grandson and a prince's cousin. And what of Aaron himself? When he is introduced (Ex. 4:14), he is referred to as "the Levite," and we later see that Aaron is in practice the prince of the tribe of Levi (Num. 17:17-18).

As Moses ascends to the peak, he is not looking for home health aides. Instead, he is assembling a triumvirate, representing the three clans who will dominate Jewish history: Judah, the house of Joseph and Levi. This pattern repeats throughout the millennia: Samuel, Saul and David establish the monarchy; Solomon, Benaiah and Ahijah the Shilonite build the First Temple; Mordecai, Ezra and Nehemiah build the Second; Elijah and the scions of Joseph and David are destined to build the Third. It all follows the Horeb template, established by Moses.
With the elections over, Israel's politicians must now come together to form a government. It can be a narrow coalition, or it can be a broad one, drawing from different sectors and segments of the population. If we follow the Horeb template, the next government of Israel will be the one that represents all of its citizens. 

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