Ki Tisa תשפא

In this week’s parsha Ki Tisa, we meet the principal craftsman for the Tabernacle and all its accoutrements, Betzalel ben Uri ben Chur from the tribe of Judah. (Exodus 31:1-5)

(א) וַיְדַבֵּר יְדֹוָד אֶל משֶׁה לֵּאמֹר:

(ב) רְאֵה קָרָאתִי בְשֵׁם בְּצַלְאֵל בֶּן אוּרִי בֶן חוּר לְמַטֵּה יְהוּדָה:

(ג) וָאֲמַלֵּא אֹתוֹ רוּחַ אֱלֹקִים בְּחָכְמָה וּבִתְבוּנָה וּבְדַעַת וּבְכָל מְלָאכָה:

(ד) לַחְשֹׁב מַחֲשָׁבֹת לַעֲשׂוֹת בַּזָּהָב וּבַכֶּסֶף וּבַנְּחשֶׁת:

(ה) וּבַחֲרשֶׁת אֶבֶן לְמַלֹּאת וּבַחֲרשֶׁת עֵץ לַעֲשׂוֹת בְּכָל מְלָאכָה

1) Hashem spoke to Moshe saying: 2) See, I have called by the name: Betzalel son of Uri, son of Chur, of the tribe of Judah. 3) I have filled him with a G-dly spirit, with wisdom, insight, and knowledge, and with every craft; 4) to weave designs, to work with gold, silver, and copper. 5) Stone-cutting for setting, and wood-carving- to perform every craft.

Hashem filled Betzael with His G-dly spirit. Why was this necessary? That Hashem endowed him with the innate knowledge of all the crafts necessary to build the Mishkan – Tabernacle, viz, woodworking, gold and silversmithing, and weaving, for example, we understand; but what was the רוח אלקים  – G-dly spirit for?

The Talmud (Berachot 55a) explains.

יודע היה בצלאל לצרף אותיות שבהן נבראו שמים וארץ,

Betzalel knew how to combine the letters the way Hashem did when He created the world.

Rabbeinu Bachya explains that this teaches us that building the Mishkan was really like creating a miniature world. Each part of the Mishkan corresponded to the spiritual source of one of the components of the physical world and supplied it with its spiritual sustenance. This is why he had to have a clear picture of the spiritual world, i.e. the specific recipes Hashem used to create it, before he could build the Mishkan.

The Midrash (Shemot Rabbah 40:2) relates that Betzalel was destined for this role from the time of creation. When Moshe was in heaven to receive the Torah, Hashem showed him the Mishkan and all is accoutrements. Moshe asked, “Whom shall I instruct to build all these things?”

ומה עשה הקב”ה? הביא לו ספרו של אדה”ר והראה לו כל הדורות שהן עתידין לעמוד מבראשית עד תחיית המתים דור ודור ומלכיו דור ודור ומנהיגיו דור ודור ונביאיו אמר לו כל אחד ואחד התקנתיו מאותה שעה וכן בצלאל מאותה שעה התקנתיו הוי ראה קראתי בשם בצלאל

Hashem brought Moshe Adam’s book (Hashem had shown the leaders to Adam) and showed him each generation with its kings, its leaders and its prophets, until the end of time. Hashem explained to Moshe that each one was prepared for his role from the time of Adam. Similarly, Betzalel was prepared for his job from that time as well.

We learn from this that every soul that would come into this world was accounted for at creation and would have a specific and special role to play in the world. Hashem showed Adam the leaders, the kings, and the prophets; but we were there also, with our specific mission and goal to accomplish in the world. Just as Betzalel was endowed with the abilities needed for his job, we, too, have also been endowed with the talents and aptitudes necessary for us to accomplish our mission.

Rabbi Chaim of Volozhin teaches us that Betzalel was endowed with yet another special type of wisdom. We learn this from a story that happened with Reb Chaim in his capacity of Rosh Yeshiva, the head of his Yeshiva in Volozhin.

The yeshiva employed a man to travel to the various Jewish communities to raise funds for the Yeshiva’s needs and upkeep. At one point, the fundraiser approached Rabbi Chaim and requested permission to purchase a horse and wagon from the Yeshiva’s funds. He could then travel to his various destinations when he needed to instead of having to wait for a wagon driver that happened to be going there. This would allow him to use his time more economically and let him ultimately raise more funds. Rabbi Chaim agreed to his request, and the horse and wagon were purchased. The fundraiser then had another small request: Could the yeshiva give him a few rubles to purchase respectable clothing to wear. He could then make a favorable impression on his clients, and hopefully secure larger donations. This request was also granted.

The new system worked fine. The fundraiser was able to see more prospective donors, and the size of the donations increased, that is, until the fundraiser came to a certain donor who had previously donated 50 Rubles every year. This time, upon seeing the fundraiser pull up in his own horse drawn wagon in his fancy clothing, the fellow would not give a penny.

Rabbi Chaim would regularly review the yeshiva’s ledgers listing the donors and their contributions, and when he came across that donor, he was shocked to see that he did not contribute even one kopek that year. He questioned the fundraiser, who was at a loss to explain the sudden turn of events and told the Rosh Yeshiva that not only would the man contribute nothing, he actually expressed regret for all of his past donations. This upset the Rosh Yeshiva and he requested that the next time the fundraiser plans to travel to that area, he should please tell the Rosh Yeshiva because he wants to speak to that former donor.

When Rabbi Chaim and his fundraiser pulled up to this person’s house, the erstwhile donor, upon seeing the great Rosh Yeshiva himself coming to visit him, ran out to greet him and invited him into his house with great respect and deference. The Rosh Yeshiva asked the man what was behind his sudden change of heart, and why he even regretted his past donations?

The man responded, “When your fundraiser came with public transportation in regular clothing, I knew that my donations were going to feed the boys learning Torah and to the other important needs of the Yeshiva. But now that your man comes with his own horse and wagon in fancy clothing, I don’t want to give money to feed the horse and pay for the wagon or his clothes! That is not what my charity money is for!”

The rabbi listened and then asked the person. “Have you studied the Talmud?” “No,” he replied. “How about the Prophets?” “No,” came the response. “Then what did you learn?” asked the rabbi. The man answered, “I am well versed in the Torah, the weekly portion.”

Rabbi Chaim then pointed to the verses quoted above describing Betzalel and posed the following question to him: “If I were describing a doctor as being the greatest doctor in his field, always knowing the proper diagnosis for any illness, and a real mensch, would I list among his virtues that he is also happened to be a skilled weaver? That wouldn’t fit with the caliber of his other virtues! So why did the Torah, after informing us that Betzalel knew the recipes that Hashem used to create the world, tell us that he was also an excellent gold and silversmith? It doesn’t fit!”

The Rosh Yeshiva proceeded to explain. The Mishkan had different “zones,” each holier than the other. The holiest of all was the קדשי הקדשים  – the Holy of Holies where the holy ark resided. Then there was the less holy area where the Menorah and the Table for the Showbread and the altar for the incense stood, which, although was less holy, it was nevertheless more holy than the outer sanctuary where the altar for the animal sacrifices stood. You can imagine each person who brought his precious donation for the Mishkan’s construction told Betzalel, “Please be sure to put my nugget of gold in the holiest part of the Mishkan, the Holy of Holies!” The Torah is teaching us here that Hashem endowed Betzalel with the divine wisdom to discern with what degree of holiness the contributions were given to the Mishkan and to assign them accordingly. Despite the donors’ requests, Betzalel put those items that were given with the purest and holiest motivations and intentions in the holiest places; the donations that were given with personal selfish intentions were used for the less holy purposes.

With this Rabbi Chaim told the man, “If you give your donation with pure and holy intentions, you can rest assured that Hashem will see to it that your money is used to pay for the very sustenance of the boys learning Torah. The horse and wagon will be paid for by those who give their donations for honor and other selfish reasons.” The man smiled, and gave Rabbi Chaim the donation to the yeshiva.

When the Mishkan was built, Hashem endowed Betzalel with this uncanny ability. Nowadays, we rely on Hashem to look into our hearts when we give our charity and, based on what He sees, He assures the money we give is used in the most appropriate way.

As Shmuel the prophet said (Samuel I 16:7):

כִּי הָאָדָם יִרְאֶה לַעֵינַיִם וַידֹוָד יִרְאֶה לַלֵּבָב

Man can only see with his eyes, but Hashem sees into our hearts.

We find the same concept in regard to the half-shekel donation cited in the beginning of this week’s portion, which begins with the following instructions to Moshe (Exodus 30:12, 13):

יג) זֶה יִתְּנוּ כָּל הָעֹבֵר עַל הַפְּקֻדִים מַחֲצִית הַשֶּׁקֶל בְּשֶׁקֶל הַקֹּדֶשׁ עֶשְׂרִים גֵּרָה הַשֶּׁקֶל מַחֲצִית הַשֶּׁקֶל תְּרוּמָה לַידֹוָד

13) This shall they give, everyone who passes through the census, a half-shekel as a portion to Hashem.

The verse announces: This they shall give. To what does this refer? “This” is a demonstrative pronoun, which usually refers to something tangible in front of the viewer. How does it fit here?

The Midrash (Tanchuma 9) explains that Moshe had difficulty understanding the commandment of the half-shekel, so, in response, Hashem showed him a “coin of fire” and said, “This is what they should give!”

What didn’t Moshe understand about the mitzvah of giving the half shekel, and how did the coin of fire answer Moshe’s question? The Chatam Sofer (d 1839) explains.

Moshe wondered, “How do we become worthy of reward for giving Hashem a paltry half a shekel? After all, all the money that we have is from Hashem to begin with! If I gave you a box of 24 chocolates and asked you for one, wouldn’t you give me one? How could you not? And for that Hashem is going to reward us?” Hashem answered with a coin of fire. Hashem is not interested in our coin. He is interested in the feelings of love with which we give it. It is the fire, the spiritual component of the gift that we create in our hearts, that interests Hashem. A person who gives a dime to charity because that is all that he can afford, but who gives it with his whole heart, may receive more reward than one who gives a million dollars for his own honor and prestige. The Talmud says (Sanhedrin 106b): רחמנא ליבא בעי  – Hashem wants our hearts; that is what we are rewarded for.

It is noteworthy, that לב  – the heart,  is also mentioned in reference to the craftsmen, Betzalel’s helpers, who fashioned the materials into the Mishkan’s various vessels and tapestries, though it is mentioned in a peculiar way. (Exodus 28:3):

ספר שמות פרק כח

(ג) וְאַתָּה תְּדַבֵּר אֶל כָּל חַכְמֵי לֵב אֲשֶׁר מִלֵּאתִיו רוּחַ חָכְמָה וְעָשׂוּ אֶת בִּגְדֵי אַהֲרֹן לְקַדְּשׁוֹ לְכַהֲנוֹ לִי:

You shall speak to all the wise hearted people whom I have invested with a spirit of wisdom and they will make Aharon’s vestments to sanctify him to minister to Me.

Every time the Torah refers to the craftsmen, it calls them wise hearted. Isn’t wisdom in the mind?

There is an even more perplexing verse later on (Exodus 31:6):

ספר שמות פרק לא

וּבְלֵב כָּל חֲכַם לֵב נָתַתִּי חָכְמָה וְעָשׂוּ אֵת כָּל אֲשֶׁר צִוִּיתִךָ:

And I have endowed the heart of every wise hearted person with wisdom, and they will make all that I have commanded you.

How did they become wise before the wisdom was endowed to them?

The לב  – heart, is the source of our deepest and inner most desires. It represents our true רצון  – inner will.  The word רצון , comes from the Hebrew word רץ  which means to run. The רצון  is what causes us to chase after the things we desire. Whether conscious or subconscious, it is what motivates our every decision, for we are always trying to achieve our רצון .  A wise heart means that his רצונות  , his inner most aspirations, are wise and on target.

When Moshe announced to the people that he needed volunteers to help with the Tabernacle’s construction and told them, “We need weavers, we need fine goldsmiths and silversmiths. We need carpenters, and diamond cutters,” most people thought to themselves, “I can’t do that! I have no training or experience in those areas. I have been working with bricks and mortar for my whole life; how could I possibly do fine craftsmanship?” They did not offer to help.

But there were a fewחכמי לב  – people whose hearts were in the right place and who wanted desperately to be part of the construction, who said, “I volunteer! I will do it! How will I do it you ask? I have no training? I don’t know! I’ll figure it out. All I know is that I want to be a part of this holy work.” Hashem said to these wise hearted people, “You want to be part of this? No problem! I will endow you with the skill and know-how you need so you can fulfill your wish.”

This is the meaning of the verse (Exodus 35:21):

ספר שמות פרק לה

(כא) וַיָּבֹאוּ כָּל אִישׁ אֲשֶׁר נְשָׂאוֹ לִבּוֹ

And every man whose heart lifted him came …

Nachmanides explains:

רמב”ן על שמות פרק לה פסוק כא

ויגבה לבו בדרכי ה’ לבא לפני משה לאמר לו אני אעשה כל אשר אדני דובר

And he lifted his heart in the ways of Hashem to come before Moshe and say to him, “I will do whatever my master requests!”

The Tabernacle’s workmanship was performed by people with the purest of motivations, with a desire to play a part in this holy work. Their hearts carried them to go beyond their comfort zone to do the holy work of the Tabernacle.

Because the Tabernacle’s purpose was to bring Hashem’s presence into our hearts, it had to be built by people who had “lifted their hearts in the ways of Hashem” with materials donated by people who had opened their hearts to give it. The combination was unbeatable.

Now that the Tabernacle’s foundations had been laid by these pure hearts, Hashem’s holy presence had a suitable place to dwell, and the rest of the Jewish nation could benefit from it.

In our personal service to Hashem, our hearts are also our most important instrument. The feelings of love and commitment that emanate from within us when doing a mitzvah are the yardstick by which Hashem measures our mitzvot. Hashem showers us with so much love and kindness. We owe Hashem so much, let us use this as motivation to do Hashem’s mitzvot with all our hearts!

Print this article

Leave a Reply