SALT - Monday, 20 Adar I 5776 - February 29, 2016

  • Rav David Silverberg

            The Midrash (Shemot Rabba 48:5) tells that Benei Yisrael marveled at the wisdom and talents of Betzalel, the artisan chosen by the Almighty to lead the construction of the Mishkan: “Everybody was saying, ‘Betzalel made the Mishkan with his wisdom and brilliance!””  God, however, wanted the people to recognize that He is the source of Betzalel’s special talent.  For this reason, the Midrash comments, Moshe told Benei Yisrael when informing them of Betzalel’s appointment, “See that the Lord has called upon the name of Betzalel…” (Shemot 35:30) – emphasizing the point that it was God who endowed Betzalel with his unique skills.  The Midrash draws an analogy to a physician who earned widespread praise for curing a certain patient, but then his teacher came along and asked for recognition, as he enabled the physician to cure ill patients.  Similarly, the Midrash comments, as the people applauded and heaped praise upon Betzalel for his masterful work, God asked that they recognize His role, as He granted Betzalel the knowledge and capabilities he needed for this formidable undertaking.

            On the simplest level, the Midrash reminds us of the need to thank the Almighty for our talents and achievements, recognizing that any skills we possess are, ultimately, gifts which we have received from our Creator.  Humility does not require us to deny our skills and talents, but it does require us to, among other things, acknowledge that they have been graciously given to us by God.

            Rav Simcha Bunim of Pashischa (Kol Simcha, Parashat Vayakhel) adds a deeper interpretation of the Midrash’s comment.  Rashi, based on the Midrash Tanchuma, understood the Mishkan as the means through which Benei Yisrael earned atonement for the sin of the golden calf.  Accordingly, Rav Simcha Bunim writes, the Midrash draws our attention to the fact that God provided Benei Yisrael the person they needed for the construction of the Mishkan, the means of their atonement, when this became necessary.  If they wondered whether or not God accepted their repentance and granted them atonement, they could look to the fact that God ensured that they would have somebody uniquely suited for the task of building the Mishkan.  Betzalel’s special talents testified to their having earned forgiveness, as God sent them the person they needed to achieve atonement for the golden calf.  God therefore instructed Moshe to inform Benei Yisrael that God accepted their teshuva and actually provided them with the means through which to atone for their misdeed.

            According to Rav Simcha Bunim, then, the Midrash here observes that God actively assists us in our effort to correct our own mistakes.  Although we are so often the cause of our problems, God helps to facilitate our solutions.  Of course, we need to put in considerable efforts and make the sacrifices necessary for this process to succeed – just as Benei Yisrael needed to donate materials for the Mishkan and participate in the construction effort.  But Rav Simcha Bunim reminds us that we need to trust that the Almighty looks favorably upon such efforts and does His part to help ensure our success, despite our failures which made this difficult process necessary.