Torah Weekly

For the week ending 5 March 2005 / 24 Adar I 5765

Parshat Vayakhel

by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair -
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Moshe Rabbeinu exhorts Bnei Yisrael to keep Shabbat, and requests donations for the materials for making the Mishkan. He collects gold, silver, precious stones, skins and yarn, as well as incense and olive oil for the menorah and for anointing. The princes of each tribe bring the precious stones for the Kohen Gadol's breastplate and ephod. G-d appoints Betzalel and Oholiav as the master craftsmen. Bnei Yisrael contribute so much that Moshe begins to refuse donations. Special curtains with two different covers were designed for the Mishkan's roof and door. Gold-covered boards in silver bases were connected, forming the Mishkan's walls. Betzalel made the Holy Ark (which contained the Tablets) from wood covered with gold. On the Ark's cover were two figures facing each other. The menorah and the table with the showbreads were also of gold. Two altars were made:a small incense altar of wood overlaid with gold, and a larger altar for sacrifices made of wood covered with copper.


A Betzalel Production

It always amazes me how many people it takes to make a movie. The end credits of a major production read like the telephone directory of a small town hundreds of people all involved in bringing us a couple of hours of fantasy. And yet at the beginning of the film there is always one name by itself. "A Francis Ford Copolla Film" or "A "Martin Scorsese Film" or "A Steven Spielberg Production." In spite of the myriad of workers on a film, the film is still called after its director, for it is his vision that makes the film.

Everything in this world is a marriage of form and matter. Take a spoon for example. The matter of the spoon is the metal. Its form is its shape. The form of something always reveals its purpose. The form of a spoon is that it has a handle at one end to grasp it and a receptacle at the other to contain soup, sugar and the like. The form of something always reveals its purpose, and the purpose of something is its spiritual dimension. Even a spoon has a spiritual side! Everything in this world reveals a marriage of the physical and the spiritual, of matter and shape, of potential and purpose.

Just as the lowest physical object unifies these two entities, so does the highest of physical existences. The Mishkan, the Tent of Meeting, was one of the most spiritual physical objects that existed. It was the house in which the Shechina, the Divine Presence would dwell.

The Mishkan was constructed by many people. Moshe called upon every G-d fearing man and woman to assist by spinning and weaving tapestries and constructing the components of the walls of the Mishkan with their own hands. The special skill of the women was spinning goats hair for the tapestries. The hair was both fine and stiff which made it difficult to work with.

G-d gave all those who worked on the Mishkan a measure of special know-how. This supernal wisdom was not limited only to humans. Even the animals that transported the beams of the Mishkan knew which route to take and did not require guidance.

The two people in charge of building the Mishkan were Betzalel and Oholiav. G-d gave them a special degree of insight to help them fulfill their task of fashioning the vessels of the Mishkan and to form even the most delicate of patterns, all of which were necessary for the vessels to perform their allotted spiritual functions.

However, in the Torah, the only one who seems to receive credit for the building of the Mishkan is Betzalel. The verses in the Torah repeat over and over "and he made it."

The reason is that Betzalel not only exerted himself in the physical construction of the Mishkan, he labored more than anyone else to understand the spiritual depths in each of the mystical vessels of the Mishkan. Because of this effort, G-d rewarded him with the highest level of spiritual insight into the Mishkan and its implements.

Betzalel endowed the vessels of the Mishkan with lofty and holy thoughts. He was the spiritual maker of all that it contained and thus the Torah attributes the construction to Betzalel alone.

It was a "Betzalel Production."

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