Moshe said to the B’nei Yisrael (children of Israel), “See, Hashem has called by name Betzalel, the son of Uri, the son of Chur, of the tribe of Yehudah. He has imbued him with the spirit of God, with wisdom, with insight, and with knowledge, and with [talent for] all manner of craftsmanship.”(Shemos 35:30–31)
Moshe commands B’nei Yisrael to “see” that Hashem has appointed Betzalel to construct the Mishkan (tabernacle), and that He has imbued him with great talent to carry out this monumental task.
Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, zt”l, in his Darash Moshe, asks what message does the Torah wish to convey to us with the word “see”? What in particular were B’nei Yisrael supposed to see? When the Torah describes Aharon’s appointment as Kohen Gadol (high priest), no such wording was used. What, then, is the specific lesson to be learned from this pasuk (verse)? Rabbi Moshe writes (translation):
It is not clear how people are supposed to see that Betzalel was appointed, and how is this different than when Aharon was appointed and the Torah did not say that B’nei Yisrael should see that?(Darash Moshe)
The explanation appears to be that when Hashem gives a person a talent or strength, he must know that it was given to him only so that he use it to fulfill Hashem’s Will on behalf of the B’nei Yisrael and Hashem’s Honor. True, it was not decreed that he must necessarily do so, because ultimately, it is up to his Free Choice — but in any event, the person was born for this purpose, and he will have to make an accounting for what he did not do in accordance with the abilities he was given. As such, the pasuk is to be understood straight-forwardly: “You (B’nei Yisrael), look and see clearly with your own eyes that Hashem has chosen Betzalel to fashion the Mishkan — for Hashem filled him with all the abilities and talents needed for this mission.”
And from this we know that any person with wisdom, or great might, or great wealth — the purpose is always so that he use it to fulfill Hashem’s will. And when we see many people who were given wisdom, might or wealth, and yet do not fulfill Hashem’s will, it is because the choice was left up to them — and they chose evil. They will be called to task for the wealth that they were given, and will be challenged to show what they did with it; similarly, those who were given wisdom will have to show whether they studied and taught others.
Using Our God-Given Talents
Rabbi Moshe answers by explaining an important concept about our God-given talents and unique personalities. Moshe Rabbeinu (Moshe, our teacher) was telling B’nei Yisrael, “Look at the talent and wisdom which Betzalel was given.” Betzalel was selected with the task of constructing the Mishkan and with it he was handed the tools or talents to carry out his mission. Rabbi Moshe continues that the pasuk is a directive to us all about the various aptitudes and talents with which we are born. We have a choice: Will we use these gifts to their fullest and direct our energies toward spiritual endeavors? Or will we waste them on foolishness and squan-der the privileges and opportunities we have been given? Some of us are granted great wealth, a brilliant mind, or the ability to influence people positively. Hashem leaves us with the free will to choose how we will utilize these talents and gifts throughout our lives — and He will eventually hold us accountable if we failed to use them appropriately.
Rashi (a prominent commentary on Torah), on the above pasuk adds the following:
Chur — He was Miriam’s son.
Why is this piece of family lineage important at this point?
Rabbi Shabsi ben Yosef, author of the Sifsei Chachamim commentary on Rashi, says that Rashi was answering this question: Why is Betzalel mentioned here as having descended both from Uri and Uri’s father Chur? Would it not have been sufficient to mention only that he is the son of Uri? He explains that Chur was the son of Miriam who was a neviah, prophetess, and therefore the Torah emphasizes that she merited a great and holy grandchild like Betzalel.
Rashi was bothered with why the pasuk didn’t provide the lineage [of Betzalel] up until Chur, or just say Betzalel ben Uri of the tribe of Yehudah. And he [Rashi] answers that Chur was the son of Miriam who was a prophetess and therefore merited all this [that her grandchild Betzalel was entrusted with building the Mishkan].(Sifsei Chachamim, Shemos 35:30)
Lineage versus Godly Spirit
Perhaps, however, we can provide an alternative answer to Rashi’s question. Moshe intended to teach the B’nei Yisrael to “ּרְאו — look” at Betzalel and appreciate that although his lineage is impressive and notable — his grandfather was Chur and his great-grandmother was Miriam HaNeviah — this alone did not make him eligible to build the Mishkan. Regardless of his lineage, he was chosen only because Hashem instilled within him a Godly spirit, with wisdom and understanding (Shemos 35:30) – and for this reason alone he was successful and effective in his task of erecting a Mishkan.
Putting aside each person’s origins and their family pedigree, we must recognize that our neshamos (souls) are Godly and holy, made by Hashem, with the ability to accomplish and attain great heights of holiness and purity. Whether or not we originate from famous ancestry, our chances of being successful are available to the degree that Hashem intends for us to be, as He has infused each of us with the requisite faculties needed to achieve our goals. Our pureness and Godliness are hidden away and protected in the depth of our neshamos, and we need to dig deep to re-veal these hidden tools and utilize them to our advantage as we navigate Olam HaZeh. The pasuk tells us “re’u,” look deep-ly into yourselves and perceive the hidden treasures you were given.
The great Italian sculptor and painter Michelangelo is quoted as saying, “Every block of stone has a statue inside it, and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.” Let us put our past and family roots aside and discover the richness and splendor of our neshamos by chis-eling away at the thick grime of the guf (body) and negativity with which our surroundings have influenced us. Let us not place excessive value on externals; let us remember that we were plucked from beneath the Kisei HaKavod, the Heavenly Throne, before arriving in this world.
Parshas Vayakhel | Excerpted from Torah V’nefesh – The Spirit of Torah by Rabbi Aaron Muller