As with any construction project, the Tabernacle also had an architect and a contractor. These roles were given to a fellow by the name of Betzalel.

Rabbi Ari Enkin

By Rabbi Ari Enkin, Rabbinic Director, United with Israel

This week’s Torah portion is Vayakhel (Exodus 35:1-38:20), meaning “to gather.” It refers to the special gathering that opens this week’s reading in which Moses gathers the people to instruct them on how the Mishkan (Tabernacle) was to be built.

As with any construction project, the Tabernacle also had an architect and a contractor. These roles were given to a fellow by the name of Betzalel. As the Torah states:

“Moses said to the Children of Israel: God has called Betzalel the son of Uri, the son of Chur, from the tribe of Judah, and He has filled him with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, understanding, and knowledge of the work. To think thoughts, to do with the gold, and with the silver and with the copper.”

Betzalel then assembled a team to assist him:

“And Betzalel and Ahaliav, and every man with a wise heart, who God gave wisdom and understanding to know how to do all of the Holy work…they did it in accordance with all that God commanded.”

We see that Betzalel was in charge of construction, and his associates, especially Ahaliav, helped him. However, reading the Torah portion carefully, one would notice that with every item and utensil of the Tabernacle, the Torah says “and he made” without specifying who actually made it. Was it Betzalel? Was it Ahaliav? Was it one of the many others who were on the construction team? (It actually must have been a large team, since the Torah doesn’t mention everyone’s name.) No way to tell!

However, when we arrive to the description of the construction of the Aron Hakodesh, the Holy Ark, which housed the tablets of the Ten Commandments, among other holy items, we are told that it was specifically Betzalel who made the Ark, as it says:

Why is Only Betzalel Credited?

“And Betzalel made the Ark from Shittim wood.”

What is going on here? Why is it that the person(s) who constructed all the other utensils of the Tabernacle are “anonymous” while Betzalel is explicitly credited with the construction of the Holy Ark?

One of the many answers offered is that Betzalel put his entire soul into the work. He was more devoted and dedicated than anyone else. For this reason, it was called by his name. This is the opinion of Rashi, the most authoritative Torah commentator that ever lived. There is another answer worth sharing, which is that regarding all the other utensils of the Tabernacle, Betzalel showed Ahaliav and the others what was needed to be done, but when it came to the Holy Ark, Betzalel wanted it all to himself due to its holiness.

I personally prefer Rashi’s answer, and I would like to share a practical thought on this theme that applies to each and every one of us at one time or another. We learn from this story that our care, concerns and intentions can make all the difference in the world – and in fact, it’s all that counts! It doesn’t matter whether you were personally or single-handedly responsible for some great achievement or whether you were merely part of a team.

Many people worked on the Holy Ark, but because Betzalel gave it his best, it is as if he himself constructed it. What the Torah is teaching us is that if you put your heart and soul into something and give it your best, it is as if you had accomplished it yourself, even if others were part of the team. One does not lose credit or honor by being part of a team. God knows what is in the heart of every person, and He will give you all the credit you deserve, regardless of whether others contributed to your success. So for everything you do in life – whether it concerns work, recreation or relationships and whether working alone or as part of a team – always give it your best!

Click below to read more Living Torah articles on this week’s Torah portion:

1. LIVING TORAH: The Holiness of Human Activities

2. LIVING TORAH: Use Your Gold & Gems for Good!