If You Build It, He Will Help by Eli Friedman


The past two Parashiyot, Terumah and Tetzaveh, focus on the details of the construction of the Mishkan. The Torah discusses the intricate process of building the various beams, hooks, curtains, and poles, as well as all of the elaborate Keilim with their specific forms and decorations. The project was clearly a monstrous one, and it could have been carried out only by a master craftsman with the ability to carry out building jobs of all shapes and sizes. Thus, at the end of all the details of the Mishkan, in this week’s Parashah, Hashem identifies this master builder: Betzaleil ben Uri Ben Chur.

Hashem promises to endow Betzaleil with all the skills necessary to complete the Mishkan by inspiring him with “Ruach Elokim” (Shemot 31:3). However, the fact that this Pasuk is written in the future tense is slightly confusing. If Hashem only in the future will fill Betzaleil with Ruach Elokim, what distinguishes him right now that he should be the one to build the Mishkan?

In fact, Betzaleil was already an expert in the various crafts required even before being filled with the Ruach Elokim. Ramban adds that Betzaleil was chosen because he learned these skills despite tremendous odds. Tasked with backbreaking labor, Bnei Yisrael never had time to hone new skills in Mitzrayim. In spite of all this, Betzaleil was willing and eager to learn new crafts. In addition, Betzaleil became an expert in not only one profession but many. This desire of his to learn was the reason that he was chosen.

This same trait of Betzaleil’s is found in another great leader of Bnei Yisrael – Shelomoh HaMelech, the builder of the Beit HaMikdash. Early into his reign, Shelomoh is granted a single request by Hashem. Shelomoh does not ask for a long life, riches, or honor – all valid requests. Instead, he asks for a “Leiv Shomei’a” (Melachim I 3:1), a “hearing heart.” Shelomoh asks for the ability, as he explains, to read people, to fully understand between good and bad. Shelomoh, like Betzaleil, has the desire to improve himself (to learn new skills) for the benefit of Am Yisrael. Here, too, Hashem rewards Shelomoh with a Godly spirit, a “Leiv Chacham VeNavon” which enables him to complete the important task of building the Beit HaMikdash.

Both Betzaleil and Shelomoh share the trait that they want to learn and improve themselves to help Am Yisrael. In both their cases, they were rewarded with a large addition to their wisdom and with the holy assignments of building the Mishkan and the Beit HaMidkash, respectively. Each built himself up and, with Hashem’s help, built a place for Hashem. We can learn from these two role models that if we strive to learn and improve ourselves, Hashem is willing to give us the boost we need to succeed.

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