In this week’s Torah portion, we again meet Bezalel, the Leonardo da Vinci of the Mishkan world. We learn in Exodus 35:30-34:
“And Moses said to the Israelites: ‘See, the Lord has singled out by name Bezalel, son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah. He has endowed him with a divine spirit of skill, ability, and knowledge in every kind of craft and has inspired him to make designs for work in gold, silver, and copper, to cut stones for setting to carve wood — to work in every kind of designer’s craft – and to give directions.’”
We first met Bezalel last week, so not only do we meet him a second time, we are now given his full name and a description of his extraordinary and multiple talents. (In a fascinating aside, we also see that Bezalel was Ben Hur, son of Hur, a name that became famous with Charlton Heston)!
Importantly, and easy to gloss over, is that Bezalel is not only the ultimate craftsman – he is a teacher. He knows how to give wise instruction. In order to teach, we must know how to do – and we must know how to teach. In doing so, we ensure our craft is passed through us, to the next generation, l’dor va dor. We also read that those persons who were committed to each component of the building of the Mishkan were wise-hearted, they were chochom-lev. How did this aspect of being wise-hearted inform them, and the teachings of Bezalel, and how do our own names help us carry our own received wisdom forward?
Firstly though, I am so struck by this name. I have noted before that the name Bezalel literally translates as “in the shadow of God”, and can be read as a contraction of b’tzelem Elohim. Just as each one of us is a fractal of that Divine Oneness, Bezalel carries within his hands his own creative endeavours, whilst overseeing the building of the miniaturized world of the Mishkan. And just as God is teaching us throughout and through the medium of Torah, Bezalel is instructing us through his craft. We too learn to craft with hiddur mitzvah, bringing our intention and attention to make each particle of each mitzvah beautiful and necessary. As the Mishkan is to house the Shekinah, the Presence of God in our midst-ness, so are we present in the midst of each other. Each of us is at once a particle within and necessary to the whole.
Bezalel in name and in detail teaches us we must bring our own chochmah-lev into our own work. We may not be inlaying sapphires, we may not be goldsmiths, or carvers of acacia wood, but each of us carve words, each of us instructs and teaches. We hope to both build and inhabit our own Mishkan of presence in our communities. Bezalel teaches us to make each unique encounter with word, with person, and with Torah as beautiful as possible.
Sigmund Freud taught, in Totem and Taboo, “A human being’s name is a principal component of his person, perhaps a piece of his soul.” Do we become ourselves as we have been named – are we carrying hope towards our eventual destiny, recognizing ourselves eventually through reflection? Or are we so imbued with the soul-essence of our name, that we know, there is no-choice in the choices we make? Bezalel lived his name. There is a shadow of light in Bezalel ben Hur’s very name, a shadow-light in which we all live, the shadow-light of God’s Presence. How do each of our names enable us to live as we are and do, b’tzelem Elohim?
We know that without light we cannot cast shadow. Vayakhel teaches us that without Shabbat we cannot cast our length of shadow into our own work of creating. Shabbat is the vitality of rest. And so as we assemble in community, we are each renewed with the presence of the other, and thus our capacity for our own work is renewed. We are each called, even through our names, to be a Mishkan, a dwelling place for God.
Vayakhel teaches us to remember that beauty below is mirrored in the beauty above. That mirror of reflection is our relationship with God, the One Who renews us each day. May we learn to mirror the unique blessing of our names, and may we each continue to learn and instruct through prisms of beauty and wisdom and heart.