Parshat Vayakhel 5774: The Significance of Betzalel’s Appointment as Chief Craftsman of the Mishkan

Shalom Friends;

This week, our Parshat HaShevua, Parshat Vayakhel is being sponsored by Yossie and Riki Leff of Ramat Beit Shemesh who wish Hotslocha to their children: Shoshana Esther, Aliza and Yisachar Dov. To the Leff family, many thanks for your sponsorship and for your continued kindnesses.

You can celebrate a Simcha — a birth, a Bar/Bat Mitzvah, a Chassuna or other Simcha event in your life, or commemorate a Yahrtzeit of a loved one, or for whatever other reason by sponsoring a Parshat HaShevua.

Please be in contact with me with any questions, or for further details.

Best Regards,

Moshe Burt
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Parshat Vayakhel 5774: The Significance of Betzalel’s Appointment as Chief Craftsman of the Mishkan

by Moshe Burt

The word Vayakhel — Assembling together of Kol B’nai Yisrael, introduces the building of the Mishkan (Tent of Meeting), the forerunner of the Beit HaMikdash, which would serve as a kappara (atonement) for the Eigel Zahav (Golden Calf). Our parsha opens by teaching B’nai Yisrael about Shabbos which has always, until recent times, been the unifying, defining factor of Judaism. Shabbos seems a gateway to all else — Kashrut, the Chaggim, Torah learning and Ethics, Yishuv HaAretz, Kiddushin, Family Purity, etc. It symbolizes the Jew’s faith in Hashem. And the melachot involved in the construction of the Mishkan were meant to define the paradigms of melachot prohibited on Shabbos.

When Moshe Rabbeinu taught B’nai Yisrael about the holiness of Shabbos and transmitted to them the details of Hashem’s instructions regarding the Mishkan and its contents, Torah records:

“Every man whose heart inspired him came; and everyone whose spirit moved him brought the portion of Hashem for the work of Sanctuary, for all its labor and for the holy garments.” (Sefer Sh’mos, Perek 35, posuk 21)

Yehuda Nachshoni, in his Sefer “Studies in the Weekly Parasha”, page 585, cites both Ramban and Abarbanel, on the above posuk :

Ramban states that the expression “everyone whose spirit moved him” refers to the wise men and artisans … whose hearts stirred them to offer technical assistance in executing the work. The Torah defines their offer as a “stirring of the heart” [“moving of the spirit”], for they were not trained in such work specifically and did not know if they were capable of it. Yet their hearts were filled with longing to put their natural talent to practical use, and it was with this longing that they approached Moshe. Moshe told them that according to Hashem’s command, only Betzalel and Eliav were appointed to the operation. Yet, when the offfering was completely collected, Moshe put these volunteers, together with the collected funds, at the disposal of Betzalel and Eliav, telling them to oversee the volunteers’ work and to supervise the practical application of their talent.

Abarbanel, as well, holds that the selection of candidates to work as artisans was based on nothing more than the eagerness of those candidates themselves, for in Egypt they had no experience in such work.

So it would seem that both Ramban and Abarbanel indicate that the “inspired hearts” and the “moved spirits” related not only to the donations of funds and material items, but to the voluntary labor needed to complete the Mishkan.

But how did it happen that Hashem appointed Betzalel to supervise the construction of the Mishkan? Yehuda Nachshoni’s “Studies in the Weekly Parasha”, cites Chazal in Sanhedrin (page 597) as stating that Betzalel was only 13 years old when Hashem Appointed him. Nachshoni continues (page 597):

At such a young age, he could not have attained his wondrous expertise unless Hashem had blessed him at birth with a brilliant mind capable of absorbing everything.

Nachshoni (page 598) again cites Ramban who comments on Sefer Sh’mos, Perek 35, posuk 30:

“Observe, Hashem has selected Betzalel…”

Hashem has alerted Moshe… Here is remarkable talent revealed, destined from birth to construct the Mishkan: “Before I formed you in the belly I knew you, and before you came out of the womb I sanctified you” (Yirmiyahu 1:5). Besides a lofty knowledge of the secrets of creation, Betzalel was blessed with a broad knowledge of the disciplines of his times, remarkable when one takes into account the circumstances in which the nation lived [under enslavement and persecution in Mitzrayim with bricks and mortar]. They did not learn how to work with silver, gold or precious gems, never having seen them.

So what was the significance of Betzalel that he was so endowed with this expertise and appointed to supervise the construction of the Mishkan? Both Nachshoni (page 599, citing Midrash Rabbah) and Rabbi Mordechai Katz, in his sefer “L’lmod Ulamed” (page 96) provide the significance of Betzalel’s lineage. “L’lmod Ulamed” (page 96) explains:

…Torah lists not only Betzalel’s name, but also those of his father Uri and his grandfather Chur….

…Chur was one of the few individuals who emerged from the episode of the Egel Zahav with distinction. When B’nai Yisrael began insisting on the construction of a golden calf [a different form of service, an alternative spiritual channel (??), lacking Moshe’s presence], it was Chur [husband of Moshe’s sister Miriam] who tried to bring them to their senses. He lectured them severely, warning that their act was sacrilegious and that they would later be sorry. But this opposition only aroused… fury, and they compounded their sin by killing Chur (Sanhedrin 7a).

Chur… made very noticeable his loyalty to Hashem. By way of reward, he was blessed with a grandson [Betzalel] who, helped by Chur’s merit, became the chief craftsman of the Mishkan.

Nachshoni (page 599, citing Midrash Rabbah) notes:

Hashem’s choice of Betzalel was based on the outstanding self-sacrifice of his grandfather, Chur… The Torah details Betzalel’s lineage going back to his grandfather to stress this innate family quality. …This [Betzalel’s charge to craft and oversee building of the Mishkan] is the natural outcome of the grandson’s guarding the great flame lit by his grandfather.

Betzalel was chosen because his grandfather had sacrificed his life to sanctify Hashem’s name. The self-sacrifice of Betzalel’s family contributed to the atonement inherent in the the Mishkan’s construction. Just as its gold atoned for the gold of the calf, transforming an exhibit for the prosecution into an exhibit for the defense, so too did having a grandson of Chur build the Mishkan achieve the same end.

Along with the remarkable wisdom, talent, expertise bestowed upon Betzalel regarding construction of the Mishkan, Hashem endowed him with another attribute which we, today, could do well to emulate. Rav Zelig Pliskin explains in his sefer, “Growth Through Torah” on our parsha (page 250):

“He put in his heart to teach…” (Sefer Sh’mos, Perek 35, posuk 34)

There are people who have special knowledge and skills but do not want to teach them to others. …Torah praises Betzalel because he was willing to share his knowledge with others. (Ohr Hachayim)

A person who desires knowledge only for his own honor will be reluctant to to share what he knows with others. The more people who have the same knowledge the less special he will be. But if a person realizes that his knowledge and skills are gifts from The Almighty, he will readily pass them on to others.

Rav Pliskin reasons that we learn from Betzalel that one’s willingness to share knowledge with others is a sign of one’s true inner attitudes regarding one’s own wisdom.

May we, the B’nai Yisrael be zocha that our brethren — the refugee families from Gush Katif be permanently settled and be made totally whole — be totally restituted for all that was stolen from them at leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized gunpoint, that our dear brethren Jonathan Pollard, Sholom Rubashkin, as well as the MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem. May we have the courage and strength to stand up and physically prevent the possibility of Chas V’Challila any future eviction of Jews from their homes and the handing of Jewish land over to anyone, let alone to enemies sworn to Israel’s and Judaism’s destruction and eradication. May we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nai Yisrael as a Unique people — an Am Segula, not to be reckoned with as with “the nations” and may we be zocha to see the Moshiach, the Ge’ula Shlaima, as Dov Shurin sings; “Ki Karov Yom Hashem V’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bim hay v’yameinu — speedily, in our time”, — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!!

Good Shabbos!

Moshe Burt, an Oleh, is a commentator on news and events in Israel and Founder and Director of The Sefer Torah Recycling Network. He lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh.