God wanted only a person with a sterling reputation to lead the construction of His home in this world. That is why he chose Betzalel to build the Tabernacle.

This week’s Torah portion is Vayakhel-Pekudei, and with it we complete the book of Exodus. (On to Leviticus!)

The star of the show this week is certainly Betzalel. Betzalel was the hand-picked (by God!) CEO of the Tabernacle construction project. The Tabernacle (Mishkan in Hebrew) was the portable sanctuary that the Jews took with them wherever they went during the 40 years of wandering in the desert. As the verse says: “God has called by name Betzalel, son of Uri, son of Chur, of the tribe of Judah [to oversee the construction of the Tabernacle]” [Exodus 35:30]. The Midrash (rabbinic literature) teaches that this “corresponds” to the verse, “A good name is better than good oil.” [Ecclesiastes 7:1].

What is the connection between these two verses?

Well, the obvious link is that both verses contain the word “name.” But on a more homiletic level, it is explained that although a very good smell, such as fine oil (which was used as perfume in ancient times), may precede or extend beyond a person, it is only for a short distance. On the other hand, a good name, a good reputation, can precede a person for miles, even across the world! Betzalel was a person who ensured a good name for himself not only in this world, but also with God in heaven!

The Midrash then continues this teaching with a seemingly unrelated question: How far must a person distance himself from Shatnez? (Shatnez is the biblical prohibition against wearing a garment that contains both wool and linen.) The answer given is that even if a person is wearing 99 garments, he still may not place a shatnez garment atop of all the others as this, too, would be a violation of the prohibition.

What could the teaching about the importance of a good name have to do with the prohibition of shatnez?? They don’t seem to be connected!

There is indeed a connection.

Almost every time that the Torah mentions Betzalel, it says: “Look, I’ve called him by name.” Why does the Torah always introduce Betzalel in this manner?

It is explained that Betzalel did not get the job of being the CEO over the construction of the Tabernacle because he had a university degree or any unusual architectural talents, for that matter. He had one thing: a good name. He was a pure and honest individual. That’s all. God wants a person who has a good name to lead the construction of His home in this world. That’s the most important asset for such a position! That’s the most import entry on any resume!

Ninety-nine Garments Removed

How does one ensure a good name for himself? How does a person earn a good reputation? Simple. Distance yourself from anything unbecoming or shady. A far distance. No exceptions.

Shatnez is thus a perfect example of how far a person must remain from impropriety! Even if a person is “99 garments removed” from impropriety, he or she must not do anything unbecoming even with the 100th garment, so to say. Just as it might seem strange that a person can violate the prohibition of shatnez by wearing a shatnez garment on top of 99 others, so too, a person can certainly ruin his name by being involved in something unbecoming, regardless of how removed he may be from the “plot.”

The message: Be a Betzalel! Be sure to distance yourself from anything unbecoming and ensure that all your actions, commitments, and dealing are beyond reproach! It might just get you a world renowned reputation in both heaven and earth!

By: Rabbi Ari Enkin, Rabbinic Director, United with Israel
For more insights on this week’s Torah portion by Rabbi Ari Enkin, click on the links below: