VAYAKHEL (Exodus, 35:1-38:20) — “The Architect”

The donations were pouring in.  Moses had put out the word that he was accepting contributions of precious items for the construction of the Tabernacle.  The shopping list was massive.  Silver, gold and copper.  Woolen cloths colored with various expensive dyes and animal skins.  Olive oil, spices, and gems.

In addition to raw materials, Moses was looking for talent.  He needed weavers and metalsmiths.  He needed people to build the walls and the furniture.

It was a massive project.  There were plenty of good-hearted people willing to help.  What was still needed was someone to pull it all together:

Moses said to the Children of Israel, “Observe that G-d has selected Bezalel…and has filled him with a divine spirit of wisdom, insight, and knowledge, and all types of craftsmanship; to weave designs, to work with gold, silver, and copper; stone cutting and carpentry; to perform every craft of design…”  (Exodus, 35:30-33)

Now the Tabernacle crew had a foreman.  Bezalel, the head architect and his assistant Oholiav, were given their mandate:  Coordinate the volunteers into a cohesive, organized work force, and build the House of G-d.

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Rabbi Moshe Feinstein pointed out that the Torah uses a very unusual terminology:  “Observe that G-d has selected Bezalel…”

What did Moses mean by “Observe…”?  What is there to observe?  Moses seems to be telling the people that it should be obvious that G-d had selected Bezalel as the architect.  How could they possibly know?  They weren’t prophets!

Rabbi Feinstein answered that Bezalel’s assignment should have been obvious.  Bezalel was a talented man.  He possessed a deep understanding of the various areas of expertise required for the job.  He understood woodwork.  He understood design.  He was an expert craftsman.  He didn’t need to be commanded to do the job; it should have been self-evident.  Why else would G-d endow him with so much ability?

Moses was telling the nation that they should realize that Bezalel was the man for the job because he knew how to do that job.  And the point of that statement, said Rabbi Feinstein, is that we should all realize that if we have certain talents and abilities, we are obligated to use those abilities to serve G-d. Are you strong?  Do physical work for your Shul or Yeshiva.  Are you organized?  Chair next year’s dinner.  Are you artistic?  Decorate the shul social hall. Do you possess wealth?  Use it to help the poor and to support Torah institutions.  Don’t wait for a command from G-d; just do it!

We all posses various areas of expertise.  G-d gives us talent and He expects us to use it in His service.  If we allow our G-d-given gifts go to waste, we can expect to answer to G-d someday as to why we didn’t do what was obviously incumbent upon us.

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An elderly gentleman in the retirement community where I work lost his wife.  He told me during Shiva that he was thinking of moving.  “I moved here because my wife needed some extra help.  But I, thank G-d, can manage on my own.  After Shiva, I’d like to get your advice about my various options.”

I wasn’t looking forward to the discussion.  He was a very helpful fellow.  Everyone in the community loved him.  If someone needed a favor he was happy to oblige.  I didn’t want to see him go.

After Shiva he came back to the home.  As he walked in the front door, he recognized a former neighbor of his who had just moved in. This gentleman was a retired rabbi who was suffering from early stages of dementia.  He was confused and in need of guidance.   Our friend, just up from Shiva, knew and understood exactly the guidance that the rabbi needed.

Our post-Shiva discussion was no longer necessary.  “I’m not going anywhere,” he told me.  I now understand exactly what G-d has planned for me.  Rabbi ___ needs me.”

Do you want to know what G-d expects of you?  Look in the mirror.  See what you know how to do, and do it!

Have a great Shabbos.

Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz

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FROM THE ARCHIVES

Some years the two Torah Portions of Vayakheil and Pekudei are  read together, and some years they are read on two separate Sabbaths.  For your convenience.  For your convenience, I present both Portions:

 

Links to this week’s first Torah Portion:

“Mirror, Mirror In The Sink…” (2010)

 … Moses had a dilemma.

Donations were coming in for the Tabernacle…The problem was that women had donated their polished copper mirrors.  They wanted to have their mirrors melted down and made into a copper sink.

Moses was repulsed.  How could he accept these mirrors?  The Tabernacle was to be a holy place filled with holy vessels! These mirrors represented vanity.  Women would sit in front of these mirrors for hours on end preening and painting and brushing themselves…What could be more secular and unG-dly than a woman trying to make herself beautiful? How could Moses permit such vanity in G-d’s house? …

Read more.

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“The Architect” (2008) 

The donations were pouring in.  Moses had put out the word that he was accepting contributions of precious items for the construction of the Tabernacle…

It was a massive project.  There were plenty of good-hearted people willing to help.  What was still needed was someone to pull it all together…

Now the Tabernacle crew had a foreman.  Bezalel, the head architect and his assistant Oholiav, were given their mandate:  Coordinate the volunteers into a cohesive, organized work force, and build the House of G-d.

… the Torah uses a very unusual terminology:  “Observe that G-d has selected Bezalel…”

What did Moses mean by “Observe…”?  What is there to observe?  …

Rabbi Feinstein answered that Bezalel’s assignment should have been obvious…

Read more.

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 “The King’s Day Off” (2006) 

What’s wrong with driving on Saturday?  If G-d doesn’t want me to work, fine, I’ll take off from work.  I’ll spend a pleasant day with the family.  We’ll drive to the local orchard and pick apples.  Then go to the park and have a barbeque, maybe take in a movie.  Then we’ll go home and I’ll help my son build a tree house.  What could be more relaxing?

Read more.

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 “(Madison Square) Garden of Eden” (2005)

… Lublin, Poland.  Once a center of Jewish life, it was one of the first Polish cities that the Nazis succeeded in declaring Judenrein… The Nazis derived great pleasure in burning the library of Yeshiva Chachmei Lublin in 1939.  There were so many books that the dastardly deed took twenty hours to complete.  But in their perverted sense of values, twenty hours were a small investment to pay for the dividend of destroying Rabbi Shapiro’s work and silencing the voice of Torah study.  Jewish Lublin was dead.  The Rabbi of Lublin’s dream was crushed and destroyed, never to rise again.

Or, perhaps not…

Read more.

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“Missing Yud = Missing YID!” (2003)

… the High Priest… wore an Ephod, a type of apron that had two jewels on the shoulder strap, and a breastplate that had twelve stones.  These 14 stones were donated by the Nesi’im, the Princes of each tribe.

… there was something lacking in their donation.  When Moses let the word out that he was accepting contributions for building the Tabernacle, the twelve Tribal Princes, men of great wealth, offered to underwrite the project.  They committed themselves to make up whatever shortfall there might be in communal donations.  There was no shortfall.  The Nation of Israel responded to the call, and in two days, Moses had more than he needed.  There was nothing left for the Princes to donate except for the 14 stones.

Why are the Nesi’im criticized?  Shouldn’t they be praised for taking the initiative to insure that everything would be provided? …

Read more.

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Links to this week’s second Torah Portion:

“Four-tenths of an Ounce of Prevention…” (2008)

…Haman hated Jews.  He wanted, more than anything, to destroy them.  Being a superstitious man, he decided to draw lots (“Purim” in Hebrew) to see when would be a good time to wipe out his enemies.  He drew the month of Adar.  Haman was thrilled.  Well-versed in Jewish history as he was, he knew that Adar was the month during which Moses died.  Obviously, Adar must be a bad month for Jews.  His mistake was that Moses was also BORN during Adar, a particularly auspicious event for the People of Israel.

…Haman hated us so much that he was even willing to pay the bill for our slaughter.  And the king, no lover of Jews himself, told Haman he could keep the money.  The extermination would be “on the house.”

Miscalculating the significance of the month of Adar was not Haman’s only mistake…

Read more.

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 “Wasting Shekels and Wasting TALENTS” (2005)

Beware the Ides of April!

With tax time little more than a month away, we must to remember to do it right.  Make sure you have receipts for all your donations and business expenses.  After all, what will happen if the IRS calls you in for an audit?

On the Jewish calendar, this week is tax time AND audit time. …

Moses feared the appearance of impropriety.  First, he collects precious stones, metals and other materials for the Tabernacle.  Suddenly, he’s driving a Lexus!  Now, how does that look?  He ordered an audit in order to demonstrate that everything collected was used for the Tabernacle.  Nothing was “skimmed off the top.”…

“That’s it?!” I asked out loud in my passenger-less car.  THAT eyesore is what two intelligent people spent twenty-one million dollars of their own money on?! …

Read more.

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 “I Saw the Face of G-d!” (2004) 

…”The cloud covered the Tent of Meeting, and G-d’s glory filled the Tabernacle.”  (Ibid. 40:34)

G-d allowed the Shechina, His Divine Presence, to be apparent for all the world to see.  The Tabernacle, and later, the Temple in Jerusalem, was a place where miracles were a daily event.  One could not spend the day in this place and deny the existence of G-d.

Sadly, this Divine Presence is much harder to perceive than it used to be.  Even in the Second Temple, many of the blatantly obvious miracles no longer took place.  G-d is no longer so easy to find.

Or is He?…

Read more.

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“You have to PRAY Attention!” (2003)

… IF YOU PUT ON TEFILLIN WHILE THINKING ABOUT TREES FALLING IN THE FOREST WHERE NO ONE CAN HEAR THEM FALL, DID YOU PUT ON TEFILLIN???

… Every family has its own private jokes. One of ours is “Delicious Soup.”…

Read more.

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“Sure, You’ve Got the Keys, But Who’s Really Driving?”  (2001)

…The entire Nation of Israel worked together — weavers, embroiderers, silversmiths — craftsmen of many disciplines performed this labor of love to build a House of G-d… the people brought all the parts to Moses because they weren’t able to put it all together due to the weight of the beams.  Now Moses was expected to do it for them!

How, wondered Moses, would any human be able to put those massive timbers together?!  …

Read more.

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 This is the weekly message at www.torahtalk.org.   Copyright © 2000-2011 by Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz.  May be reprinted. Please include copyright information.

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Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz is a Mohel (www.Brisrabbi.com)  and chaplain in Monsey, New York. For information about scheduling a Bris or a lecture, or just to say hello, call (800) 83MOHEL.

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Published in: on February 27, 2008 at 8:00 am  Comments (1)  

One CommentLeave a comment

  1. A great lesson for life. But…would that it was so easy. There is a midrash, I believe, that Bezalel was 13 years old when he was chose. Even later in life, it is not always so apparent what one’s strengths are or even if they are adequate for certain jobs. This type of guidance and encouragement becomes harder as one gets older and vital to the young.
    Shabbat Shalom


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