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   by Jacob Solomon

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The parasha opens with:

Moses said to the Jews: "See, G-d has selected Betzalel… by name, and filled him with a divine spirit with wisdom… to perform every craft in gold, silver, copper, stone cutting… and wood carving…" (35:30-32)

In the previous parasha, Betzalel is introduced at the very end of the detailed specifications for the making of the Tabernacle. In this week's Parashat Vayakhel, the Torah opens the detailed account of its construction by introducing Betzalel at the beginning. It continues with the putting together of the less holy Tabernacle structure, and only afterwards proceeding to the content of the Holy of Holies - the Ark - with the 'testimony' two tablets of stone (40:20) from Mount Sinai.

This contrasts with G-d's instructions to Moses on Mount Sinai (c.f. 25:40), where the order of construction was different, tending to go from the most holy to the less holy, rather than from the less holy to the most holy. First was the Ark, then the Table and the Candelabrum, and then the Mishkan - the Tabernacle, the structure that accommodated them.

It may be suggested that Betzalel's changing the sequence of G-d's instructions contains a fundamental value and lesson - for educators and students. That is in the common and familiar situation where studies or skills-acquisitions have been left for some time, and events have happened in between. For example, a group of students had a very successful semester where considerable progress was made and very high standards were achieved. Then came the long summer vacation, when students scattered far and wide, and got involved in a wide range of activities. The students returned to work in September. The instructor's warm memories of their previous working with him together prompted him to assume that all that was achieved several months ago was still uppermost in their minds, and that he could simply carry on from where he left off.

The more experienced teacher, however, gets reality. However well things had gone before the summer vacation, the students had been diverted, distracted, and refocused on other activities not directly related to their studies. He cannot simply carry on from where he left off. Instead, he needs to descend a few levels, get the students back into the groove, rebuild and consolidate the material, concepts, and skills previously achieved, and only then proceed forward.

That was the implied wisdom of Betzalel. The Israelites at Mount Sinai had their closest-ever direct encounter with G-d. The Ark was the continuation of that experience - it was to be kept in the Holy of Holies within the Tabernacle, and it was the point of interaction between G-d and Moses (25:22). This was, in effect, a continuation of the Sinai education and experience.

But as the Torah narrative recounts, the Israelites had their (unscheduled) "vacation" from their "studies" in getting close to G-d as His Treasured and Holy Nation (19:6) in the events surrounding the Golden Calf. Spiritually, they could not "carry on from where they had left off" in their "education" at Mount Sinai. They had to retrace many steps. Thus the text first introduces Betzalel, the master-constructor. And subsequently, Betzalel deviated from the order of the instructions by constructing the less holy first - the Tabernacle building, and holiest - the Ark - only afterwards…

For those looking for more comprehensive material, questions and answers on the Parasha may be found at and on the material on the Haftara at .

Written by Jacob Solomon. Tel 02 673 7998. E-mail: for any points you wish to raise and/or to join those that receive this Parasha sheet every week.

Parashiot from the First, Second, and Third Series may be viewed on the Shema Yisrael web-site:

Also by Jacob Solomon:
From the Prophets on the Haftara

Test Yourself - Questions and Answers


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