Parashah of the week: Vayakhel

“{Bezalel} was endowed with a divine spirit of skill, ability and knowledge” Exodus 35:31


There is an old joke which opens: ‘How many Jews does it take to change a lightbulb?’ although the Synagogue council version asks: “How many times must we ask the rabbi to change the lightbulb?”!

I am no practitioner of DIY whether at home or in the shul but the Torah in Parashat Vayakhel feels to me like a comprehensive and practical manual, in this case for the construction of the Mishkan, the Tabernacle.

Frequently the Torah is sparing in its use of words and hence one of the purposes of midrash is to read into, or out of, the perceived gaps in the Torah’s narrative.

Vayakhel provides excessive detail of the materials for, and parts of, the Mishkan: metals, wood, animal skin and hair, linen, oil, spices and precious stones, which will be used to make the tents, the coverings, the Ark, the incense, and all the vessels to be used in the sacrificial system. It perhaps does so because the Mishkan will serve as God’s mobile home, the place where the Israelites will come closest to God.

In charge is Bezalel about whom the Torah declares that he was endowed with skill, ability and knowledge. Although there are three distinct terms in the Hebrew, it is not clear from the Torah text what is the difference between one and the others.

For any person who is involved in selections and interviews for the training of another or for the supervision of an employee’s work - and despite the apparent ability of a panel to make its decision in the first few seconds of an encounter - there is always the questions: What does the candidate bring; what might they learn and what have they yet to contribute.

It is clear that people are born with an aptitude or a capability which might be termed “innate”. It is also true that people have the capacity to learn particularly if taught by inspiring teachers. It is further the case that there are aspects of a task or role which are not easily explained or examined but can be taught and witnessed through experience.

Bezalel, the clerk of works for the Mishkan has the skill of his birth, the ability taught by his teachers and the knowledge of experience — all of which he has, as his name reflects, “in the shadow of God”.

As we go about our daily lives may we be thankful for that with which we were born, be appreciative of who has guided us until now and be open to the experiences to come - all of which will make each one of us a full and rounded miracle, conscious of the One who created us.

Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive