The results were in.
Of all of the applicants, two master artisans had been chosen to oversee the awesome task of the Tabernacle's construction.
Moses said to the Children of Israel: "See, G‑d has proclaimed by name, Bezalel son of Uri son of Hur of the tribe of Judah...and Oholiab son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan. He imbued them with wisdom of the heart, to do every work of the craftsmen, and artist, and embroiderer…to do all the work for the labor of the Sanctuary."
Why did G‑d prefer a merger over a sole supervisor?Building the Tabernacle, G‑d's terrestrial residence, must have been a most sought-after contract; it's safe to say that those who scored the job must have had, in addition to talent, considerable merit.
What was it about Bezalel and Oholiab that caused them to land this coveted assignment? And while the job was extensive, why did G‑d prefer a merger over a sole supervisor; a move which carries the potential to create differences and difficulties?
Rashi, the Bible's chief commentator, sheds light on the issue. Bothered by the Torah's inclusion of Bezalel's grandfather while recording his lineage – usually the Torah suffices with mentioning an individual's father, as it does with Oholiab – Rashi remarks that "Hur was the son of Miriam." I.e., it is to note Bezalel's pedigree, that his illustrious grandfather is mentioned.
But why does Rashi ascribe Hur's greatness to the fact that he was the son of Miriam? Hur had his own solid merits on which to stand!
Scripture makes two mentions of Hur being singled out for honor from amongst all of Israel. In one instance he stood alongside Moses, and in the other, next to Aaron.
Furthermore, Hur's devotion to G‑d superseded even that of his uncle Aaron. When the Israelites sought to make the Golden Calf, Hur tried to obstruct them, and ended up getting killed for his efforts—while Aaron reacted more mildly, and though well intentioned, took part in making the idol.
So why not attribute the choice of Bezalel to oversee the Tabernacle's construction to the fact that he was a grandson of Hur, who both lived and died to sanctify G‑d's name? Why the need to mention that he was also the great-grandchild of Miriam?
Let's break for a moment to discuss Oholiab, Bezalel's partner.
G‑d set a precedent for providing equal opportunityWhile the verse elaborates on Bezalel's ancestry, talk of Oholiab's lineage is kept to a minimum. Because, in reality, there is little about Oholiab's family-roots worth mentioning. "Oholiab was from the tribe of Dan, the lowest of all tribes, of the sons of the maidservants [his mother was Bilhah]."
But if Oholiab stemmed from ordinary stock, why was he chosen to partner with Bezalel, whose family-tree could hardly be matched?
Herein lays the point: "The Omnipresent put him on the level of Bezalel with regard to the work of the Tabernacle, who was of the greatest among the tribes, to fulfill that which it says, 'And the nobleman is not recognized ahead of the pauper."
In this moving display of sensitivity, G‑d set a precedent for providing equal opportunity. His message was clear: "My home will be built by representatives of all My children without distinction. The privileged and the underprivileged, the sophisticated and the simple, the illustrious and the plain, the rich and the poor, are all welcome to take part in this sacred building campaign."
Kings of flesh and blood show favoritism; not so the King of all kings.
(Perhaps this is also one of the reasons why when counting His children through their contributions, G‑d commanded, "The wealthy shall not increase, and the destitute shall not decrease from half of the shekel." As if to say that each of them matters the same.
Not surprisingly, it was from this collection of half shekels that the sockets that formed the base of the Tabernacle were made. Both the literal and figurative foundation of G‑d's home is to be built and predicated on the ideal of equality.)
The Maid and the Princess
The descendant of a princess links arms with the descendant of a maidservantIn order to underscore the uniqueness of the partnership between Bezalel and Oholiab, Rashi mentions Hur's mother, Miriam. The woman who was the matriarch of the Davidic line of kings and leaders.
The picture is now complete. The descendant of a princess links arms with the descendant of a maidservant.
Attributing Bezalel's greatness to the fact that he was a grandson of Hur would only highlight the greatness of one individual ancestor; mentioning that he was the great-grandson of Miriam underscores the bloodline of a family of priests and leaders.
More than just promoting egalitarianism, G‑d used this opportunity to make an important declaration. As our creator, He considers us all to have exemplary lineage. As His children, we all come from great stock.
A prominent businessman and longtime supporter of Chabad started a beginners' service at his congregation. He proudly reported on his initiative to the Rebbe. But when he told the Rebbe that he had arranged services for 130 Jews with no Jewish background, the Rebbe's smile vanished.
"What?" the Rebbe asked looking hurt, "No Jewish background?"
"Go back and tell them they have a background. They are the children of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sara, Rebecca, Rachel, and Leah."
The Rebbe's smile then returned.
What's in It for Me?
We were all created equal, no one more equal than the next. We are all G‑d's children. Let's work on seeing things the same way.
You don't have to come from somebody to be somebody!A couple once sought the Rebbe's advice. Someone had suggested a young man as a match for their daughter, but they hesitated to go ahead with it because while they stemmed from very distinguishable lineage, the young man did not.
Was this a valid reservation or not, they asked.
The Rebbe responded: "You would surely not have refused to take Abraham as a son-in-law, even though his father, Terah, worshipped idols…"
You don't have to come from somebody to be somebody!
And what of one blessed to be born into privilege and status?
One Sunday, the mayor of Haifa passed by the Rebbe for "dollars." He mentioned that he was a descendant of illustrious Chassidim. The Rebbe responded with a smile, "It's not enough just to be a 'descendant'; one should strive to be a living example!"