Different social statuses

Friday, 8 March, 2024 - 5:55 am

In every society and within every group of people there are people of different social statuses. This is something intrinsic to society, and it has existed since the human race appeared.

All through history, human beings not only failed to minimize this phenomenon, but rather increased it. True, every few decades demonstrations and unrest broke out, to the point of violent uprisings against the discrimination that was the result of the class differences, especially in the past few generations, with the communism that promised that everyone would be ‘comrades’. But in the end, even when the uprising was successful and even when it brought about a revolution, it didn’t take long at all for the revolutionaries themselves to create an elite, leading once again to discrimination and to class differences.

This week’s parashaparashat Vayakhel, relates to this topic and there is even an example of a behavior that would be worthwhile to adopt.

Two artists are mentioned in the Torah as those who were responsible for the building of the Mishkan. One, Betzalel ben Uri ben Chur, and the other, Oholiav ben Achisamach. Betzalel was of the elite par excellence – he belonged to the most important family in the desert, being a great-grandson of Miriam and Calev ben Yefuneh. Besides that, he had a family issue that needed his closure: His grandfather, Chur, was killed when trying to prevent Bnei Yisrael from making the Golden Calf, and the Mishkan that Betzalel was appointed to build was intended to atone for that exact sin. In other words, Betzalel is continuing the campaign that his grandfather died for, and therefore the Torah mentions his grandfather in his lineage. Oholiav ben Achisamach, on the other hand, is from the tribe of Dan, the second son of Bilhah, Rachel’s handmaid. They were called “The children of the handmaids” – and were not regarded very highly. As mentioned, these were natural status differences, though not fair.

The Torah mentions Oholiav together with Betzalel, to teach us that when it comes to Hashem, there are no class differences! And also, perhaps, to make us do something to correct it – to search particularly for someone on the sidelines and bring him to the front of the stage? Maybe.

Here is what Rashi said:

“Oholiav was from the tribe of Dan, from the lesser of the tribes, the children of the handmaids. And Hashem placed him on equal level with Betzalel for the building of the Mishkan, and he is from the greatest of the tribes, to bring about what it says (Iyov 34:19): “nor lets a noble be given recognition over a pauper”.


Shabbat Shalom,


Rabbi Zalmen Wishedski


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