Vayakhel - TALENTS ARE TO BE USED
THE CHIEF ARCHITECT in the construction of the Tabernacle in the desert was a brilliant young artist by the name of Bezalel. We are told in this sidrah, "And Moses said unto the children of israel: see, the Lord has called by name, Bezalel the son of Uri, the son of Chur, of the tribe of Judah. And He has filled him with the spirit of God, in wisdom, in understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship.. ." (Exod. 35:30-31).
A similar statement appears in the previous sidarh (Ibid. 31:2-4).
The Commentaries on the Torah were perplexed by the seeming redundancy of the word see in both places. It seems to be superflous, for the sentences would have been complete without that word. If, despite its seeming redundancy, it appears both in the present sidrah and in the previous one, there must be a good reason for it.
The following explanation for the inclusion of the word is offered in the name of the famed leading scholar and teacher of our generation, Rabbi Moshe Feinstein shelitah. He said that this teaches that when a person is blessed by the Almighty with special talents and abilities, he should not waste them or put them to selfish ends, but should employ them in the service of God and his fellow man.
When God commanded Moses to build the Tabernacle as a meeting place for the Jewish people and their Creator, and outlined the intricate designs and rare fabrics and materials that had to be used, the problem was to find a proper person to formulate the plans, to make the sketches and to supervise the work. And God said to Moses, who repeated the words to the people, "See! There is Bezalel who is qualified to perform this task to perfection. He is endowed with the gifts of brilliance and genius. Get him to undertake this effort, and success is assured."
The extra word, Rabbi Feinstein maintains, teaches that the learning of a scholar, the wisdom of the sage, the qualities of leadership of an individual, are special gifts of God that must not be permitted to go to waste, but should be used by the recipient of these blessings, letovat haklal, for the good and welfare of the community.
This thought is stated clearly and succinctly in the succeeding verse. "And He put in his (Bezalel's) heart that he may teach ..." (Ibid 35:34).
Judaism stresses the idea that a human being is a messenger and a tool of the Eternal One; that his talents and personal charms do not belong to him alone, but were given him to be shared with others; that everything which is winsome and attractive, that is bright and inspiring, should be employed to fill the lives of his fellows with fragrance, beauty and warmth.
Unfortunately, numerous people are either unaware of their special skills or are willing to let them go to waste. This is illustrated by the story of the man who toiled hard on a parcel of land to wring from it a bare livelihood. One day an experienced oil prospector induced the man to permit him to drill a well on the land, and soon "liquid gold" was gushing from the soil. It took the trained eye of the expert to see the great treasure buried in the land which would bring untold blessedness to the owner and the community.
And so it is with life. There are those who do not realize how rich they are until someone points their finger and says, "See! You have untapped wealth. Use it for your own and your people's benefit."
Before reciting the Shma each morning we repeat the moving prayer Ahavah Rabbah, in which we plead, "Give understanding and discernment in our hearts that we may hearken to all the words of Thy Torah, lilmod ulelamed, to learn and to teach ..." it is not sufficient to learn ourselves. Judaism insists that we share our knowledge with others.
The sages of the Mishnah, after complimenting those who complied with the aforementioned duty, criticized severely a number of talented people of their day for refusing to transmit their special knowledge and skill to others. "The following are mentioned for derision: the family of Gormo who did not want to teach how to make the show-bread; the family of Antinas who did not teach how to make the incense; Hagoras, son of Levi, who knew how to chant (in the temple) and did not want to teach ..." (Yoma 38a).
The trouble is when those who are qualified to teach, build and lead, refuse to be involved, and those who are unqualified because of lack of knowledge and deficiency in character, take over. Nature abhors a vacuum not only in the physical but also in the spiritual and intellectual spheres. When the best people do not enter the rabbinical or teaching professions and choose to pursue more lucrative and secure fields of work, then weak men--both in scholarship and dedication-- will take their place and bring lackluster and ruin to their people.
This is equally true of lay leadership in synagogues and benevolent institutions. The American Jewish community will not remain leaderless. If the Bezalels and Aholiabs will not do that which they are most qualified to do, second and third-rate persons will come forward to put a smudgy imprint on lewish life.
Fortunate is the nation that is blessed with gifted sons and daughters who know what they are qualified to do, and are willing to dedicate a good portion of their special abilities and techniques to the service of their people and their Faith.