VOLUME 54 NUMBER 10
February 26th, 2011
22 Adar 1, 5771
Them’s Buildin’ Words
By Rabbi Raphael Leban
In Parshas Vayakhel, the Jewish people build the Tabernacle and its components, as they were commanded to do a few parshas ago. Anyone who has ever been involved with building a building knows that you have to start with a good contractor. In last week’s parsha G-d selected Betzalel to break ground (or break sand, I suppose). The name Betzalel means in the ‘Shadow of G-d’, and he must have been a pretty special person to merit being the general contractor for G-d’s Tabernacle.
In fact, our Sages have pointed out that he understood intuitively how the whole thing should be built. Moshe explained to him how to build the ark and the other vessels before he told him how to build the edifice of the Tabernacle itself. Betzalel, however, intuited correctly that the Tabernacle itself must be built before the vessels that would be placed inside it. (This order of construction, different than the order of instruction, is clearly evident by comparing the parshios of Teruma and Tetzave with the parshios of Vayakhel and Pikudei.)
What was so special about Betzalel that he was singularly capable of overseeing the construction of the Tabernacle?
Our Sages describe his greatness in a rather surprising way. They say that Betzalel knew how to combine the letters with which the Heavens and the Earth were created. Not that he was a champion weaver or a skilled silversmith. He knew how to combine letters.
When G-d Himself created the universe, He spoke and the universe came into being.
With those same twenty two letters of the Hebrew alphabet that G-d used, Betzalel built the Tabernacle. It was a shadow of that first great creation, using the same mystical system, the combinations of letters of the aleph-beis. Speech.
The greatest structure in Jewish life and history, the Tabernacle, was a house of words. It was a place from which G-d spoke to Moshe and mankind, and it’s a place where we came to pour out our hearts to Him. It was a place of the most carefully and purposefully chosen words on the planet – in its use and even in its construction.
Our homes are called a Mishkan me’at, a ‘little Tabernacle.’ They are edifices of Jewish life that are built on words. The words we use to learn Torah, to pray, and to speak to those around us. If we want to have a house that’s really a little Tabernacle, before we do anything else, we have to make it a place where loving, carefully chosen words are spoken. Perhaps that was the genius that placed Betzalel in the shadow of G-d.
How Well Known Do You Want To Be?
By Rabbi Dovid Nussbaum
Everyone wants to be famous and to have their name live on after them. However, the choice of how one’s name will live on is certainly significant. The Mishkan was a remarkable and miraculous edifice which housed the Divine presence. The Torah refers to the Mishkan as the combined endeavor of the entire nation. Although the princes of the tribes displayed indolence by waiting to make their donations last, they were alone in doing so. Everyone else was excited to contribute and donated tremendous sums of gold, silver and copper. Even though the individual donors’ names are not recorded, nonetheless, we admire the collective effort of the entire nation and we are inspired by their devotion to insure the success of the project.
In the Book of Nechemia, the verses describe the building of the wall surrounding Jerusalem. Many people shared in the expense of this venture and their names are duly recorded for posterity to show what they accomplished for the sake of Heaven. However, many others did not contribute to this important project. The Chofetz Chaim comments that it is clear from the narrative that these people had the means to contribute, but they decided to use their resources in other ways. Had they known that for all generations their names would be dishonored by their apathy and indifference they certainly would have contributed their fair share and more.
From these two recorded events we see that the Torah recognizes those who dutifully fulfill their obligations and denigrates those who shirk their responsibilities. This message clearly applies to us in many ways. Our community institutions are in a state of dire need, especially in today’s economy, and if we have the resources with which to assist and support our communal institutions we must do so. If we choose to ignore our responsibilities, we will be recorded in Hashem’s history books alongside those who failed to support Jerusalem in her time of need.
As a nation, we have encountered many difficult and tragic situations. Those amongst us who have waded neck high into the fray, as did Nachshon at the Crossing of the Sea, are our bastions of leadership. As Mordechai told Esther at the time of Haman’s decree against our people, if you don’t seize this opportunity to save your nation, our salvation will come from elsewhere. Obviously, if we face such adverse conditions, we must have the ability to overcome them. The only question is who will merit to provide the salvation, not whether or not it will come.
Byte for Shabbos
Just as the people donated their valuables wholeheartedly for the Tabernacle’s construction, so too the talented artisans who actually performed the work of building the Tabernacle did so with complete and total dedication.