Parshas Vayakhel: The Wise Artisans

By Sara Wolfe

In this week’s Parsha we read about two main topics. First,  G-d tells Moshe to gather all the people of Israel and they are given the reminder to keep Shabbos.  Then they gather again and plan for the building of the Mishkan.  There are many profound life lessons that can be derived from these verses, we will uncover a few.

The Torah tells us that Bezalel, Oholiab, and “every wise-hearted man” were the ones who built the Mishkan.  As we know, every line in the Torah teaches us profound life lessons.  G-d gave Bezalel and Oholiab a special talent to be able to build the Mishkan.  He gave it to them and that is why he chose them; that was part of their life’s mission.  In our own lives, we are given an array of talents and strengths.  It is our responsibility to use the talents that G-d gave us to bring goodness into the world.

The question is raised: what does the Torah mean when it tells us that “every wise-hearted man built the Mishkan.”  Anyone who had the desire to be involved with the building of the Mishkan could be included.  How?  We had just been slaves in Egypt, and while we may have known a lot about construction, we had less skill in the fine detail necessary for building the Tabernacle.  Nonetheless, anyone who had the desire to help was endowed by G-d with the wisdom and skills to do so.

Along these lines, the story is told of how someone once came to the early 20th century scholar Rabbi Issur Zalman Meltzer to show him two books that he had written. The author said, “These are the last seforim (books) I am going to write.”  Rabbi Issur Zalman asked him, “What do you mean?  May you have many more!”  The man explained, “Very recently I lost my vision.  The doctor checked my eyes and was astounded.  Based on what he saw, I should have lost my sight ten years ago!”  He then continued, “I know the reason I was able to see until now was because despite being old and weak, I had an intense drive and desire to do complete this project and write these books.  That was my goal and I didn’t think beyond there.  Finally when I finished, I thought, ‘I did it and I am done, now I’ll relax and take a back seat.’  That is when I lost my eyesight.”  Rabbi Issur Zalman uses this story to illustrate how when someone is inspired to do G-d’s work, G-d enables him and gives him the strength to accomplish more.  As we finish one project, learn one book, grow in one area, we should immediately look towards what is next and continue to strive.  If we continue to push forward, G-d will enable us to succeed.  

A third lesson we learn is that we must strive to take advantage of the opportunities to serve G-d that come our way. After Moshe gave the people instructions for building the Mishkan the Torah then says, seemingly extraneuously, “they left.”  Why does the Torah make note of their departure?  The reason is that people were so excited to begin their task of building the Mishkan, that even though it would take months to complete, they hurriedly left the meeting and ran to begin their work.  They showed tremendous alacrity, excitement and haste to fulfill the mitzvah.  To praise this admirable trait, G-d uses a whole verse in the Torah.  Rather than procrastinate, the Jewish people savored the opportunity to perform this beautiful mitzvah.

It emerges that while this Parsha seems filled with repetitive tedious details on how the Mishkan was constructed, it actually is filled up with profound lessons to apply to our daily lives: we muse utilize our G-d-given talents, continue to always strive and grow, and catch each opportunity it arises.  With this may we all live meaningful and productive lives in which we merit to fulfill our potential and bring out our uniqueness to light up the world with beauty!