Children Are the Future by Leead Staller


Parashat VaYakheil marks the beginning of the construction of the Mishkan.  Hashem appoints Betzaleil to be the chief contractor.  The Netziv describes Betzaleil as having childlike inspiration, and many Meforshim comment that Betzaleil was in fact a child, only 13 years old.  Yet, the Yerushalmi in Masechet Peiah tells us that Betzaleil had an even deeper insight and understanding of the words of Hashem regarding the Mishkan than even Moshe Rabbeinu.

The Gemara (Berachot 55a) depicts a conversation between Moshe Rabbeinu and Betzaleil. Hashem told Moshe to construct the Mishkan, Aron, and other Keilim, but yet, when Moshe dictated these instructions to Betzaleil, he rearranged the order, telling Betzaleil to make an Aron , Keilim, and the Mishkan.  The brilliant Betzaleil inquired of Moshe as to why he listed them in this seemingly peculiar order.  He reasoned that the house that contains the vessels should be made first, and only then the vessels to be placed inside it, politely accusing Moshe of misinterpreting the words of Hashem.  Amazed by Betzaleil’s intellect, Moshe revealed the truth to Betzaleil.  The question arises, though: why did Moshe switch the order of the instructions in the first place?

Moshe thought the spirituality of the Keilim and Mishkan took priority over their physical practicality.  Although the common way of the world may have been to first build a house and then the vessels, Moshe saw that the Aron had a higher level of Kedushah than the Mishkan.  The Aron was where the Shechinah dwelled, and in Moshe’s eyes, that took priority over the Mishkan.  However, Betzaleil had a different, more innovative perspective.  Betzaleil did not confine himself to the spiritual or physical, but amalgamated the two ideas. Betzaleil incorporated spirituality into the physical constructs of the Mishkan and Keilim, and therefore took physical practicality into consideration as well as spiritual, and was thereby able to discern the true words of Hashem.

Sometimes, the conventional and practical boundaries we set for ourselves have to be shattered.  However, we can not abandon the physical considerations altogether.  Part of being a Jew, especially in this day and age, is Torah UMadda, incorporating the mundane into Torah and spirituality.  The young mind of Betzaleil was not tainted by the outside world; rather, he used it to further his knowledge.  We should learn from the actions of this child and not confine ourselves to exclusively conventional thinking, but allow ourselves the freedom to make mental leaps that may initially seem immature and foolish, but could potentially lead to further understanding.  We should use the world we live in and all of the wondrous things it has to offer to our advantage in our collective quest to serve Hashem in the greatest way possible.


Full Circle by Rabbi Darren Blackstein

The Harmony of the Mishkan by Doniel Sherman