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Rabbi A. Leib Scheinbaum
Hebrew Academy of Cleveland

Parshas Pekudey

Betzalel the son of Uri, the son of Chur...did all that Hashem commanded Moshe. (38:22)

Chazal attribute Betzalel's name to his superior wisdom. They relate that when Hashem told Moshe to oversee the construction of the Mishkan and its vessels, Moshe conveyed the message to Betzalel so that the sequence was: first the vessels and then the Mishkan. Betzalel questioned this order, remarking, "The minhag ha'olam, usual custom, is to build a house and then afterwards bring the furniture into it. You, however, are telling me to first make the vessels. Where will I put them in the interim until the Mishkan is built? Perhaps Hashem told you to construct the Mishkan first and then the keilim, vessels?" Moshe responded, "You must have been b'tzel Kel--in the shadow of the Almighty -- to be able to perceive the true order." The dialogue between Moshe and Betzalel begs interpretation. On the one hand, why did Betzalel audaciously question what Moshe had heard directly from Hashem? How did he have the nerve to express a contradictory opinion? On the other hand, it seems incredulous that Moshe would assume the real intent of Hashem's command. Why did it not enter Moshe's mind to "suspect" that perhaps he had not carefully noted the order of the command. Also, why was Moshe so impressed with Betzalel's ability to comprehend the correct sequence? Was it so difficult to determine that one builds the house before the furniture? How did Betzalel's reply indicate his spiritual superiority and astuteness?

Horav Baruch Mordechai Ezrachi, Shlita, prefaces his response by first establishing that the concept of Mishkan as the place where Hashem would repose is something "above" human comprehension. Hashem's command that Bnei Yisrael construct an edifice in which the Shechinah would find its "home" on earth is not to be understood in the usual sense. While it is understandable that an edifice must be built prior to its furniture, this only occurs in the natural sequence, according to the order on this world. Hashem, however, is not bound by the constrictions of "nature" and "order." It is, then, no wonder that Moshe understood that the construction of the Mishkan would follow a supernatural pattern. Nothing astounded him in regard to building a Sanctuary for Hashem. This would not be an ordinary building! The limits of time, sequence, place, and thought would not confine this building. It was the Bais Hashem.

Betzalel conveyed a chiddush, novel idea, which could have been perceived only b'tzel Kel, in the shadow of the Al-mighty. He told Moshe that every decree of Hashem, every command that emanates from Him concerning mankind, must -- and will -- adhere to the "rules" of this world. Regardless of the profound spiritual nature of the edifice/idea, if it is meant for this world, it will be restricted to the limitations of the physical dimension. If logic dictates that one first make a building to house the vessels, then so be it! This building will be for the Shechinah which is not bound by any constraints. When the Shechinah descends to this world for the benefit of Am Yisrael, however, then the Mishkan will be constructed according to "laws" governing this world. Only someone who was totally infused with the spiritual nature of the construction of the Mishkan, only someone who existed in the shadow of the Al-mighty, could make such a statement.

Horav Ezrachi posits that this adds a new dimension to the concept of Toras Chaim, the Torah of Life. Not only does the Torah increase the value and quality of one's life, Hashem gave it specifically to the living. Without Torah, what reason is do we have for living? Does a transitory life have meaning? Moreover, Hashem designated the entire Torah, along with its dictates and codes, to synchronize in harmony with life as we know it. The Torah is not divorced from life. Rather, it constitutes life!

He put the Shulchan in the Ohel Moed on the north side of the Mishkan...He placed the Menorah in the Ohel Moed...on the south side of the Mishkan. (40:22,24)

In the Talmud Bava Basra 25b Chazal say, "He who desires to become wise shall go south; He who desires to become wealthy shall go north. The placement of the Shulchan in the north and the Menorah in the south supports this idea. The Shulchan symbolized material wealth, since it was the medium through which the blessing of nourishment flowed to the world. The Menorah represented Torah wisdom, which is compared to light. The wisdom of the Torah illuminates the path of life before a person and guides him along the way. Consequently, the Menorah was placed on the right side of the entrance to the Mishkan. The right side is a metaphor for wisdom, alluding to its prominence. The material dimension is represented by the left side. Hence, the Shulchan was placed on the north, which is the left side.

There is one problem, however, with our analogy. The Menorah was on the right side, and the Shulchan on the left side only as they stood free-standing. To the individual who entered through the gates of the Mishkan/Mikdash, it was just the opposite, since the entrance was in the east. A person entering the Mishkan would find the Shulchan on his right, and the Menorah on his left.

The Bais Ha'levi infers a significant lesson from this pasuk. When a person enters into the endeavor of avodas Hashem, service to the Al-mighty, at the onset he is permitted to study "shelo lishmah," not for the sake of the mitzvah. One is allowed to have ulterior motives as he begins to study Torah, since it will ultimately lead to "lishmah," pure Torah study for the sake of the mitzvah. When one begins to earn a living or undertakes any endeavor for the purpose of financial gain, his intention must be purely l'shem Shomayim, for the sake of Heaven. No room exists for ulterior motives in the area of earning a living. An individual works because that is the means by which he sustains himself, so that he can perform mitzvos and study Torah. Material endeavor is a means, not an end. Otherwise, the pursuit of financial gain can become an obsession. It drives one to do the unspeakable in his quest for greater and more significant rewards. Chazal guarantee "mitoch shelo lishmah ba lishmah." Once one begins to study Torah, regardless of his motive, if he continues, he will ultimately become a student of Torah lishmah, for the sake of the mitzvah. This applies only to Torah study and no other endeavor.

Consequently, when one enters the Mikdash, the Menorah is on his left side, symbolizing that he may begin studying Torah for self-serving purposes. Regarding material endeavor, however, he must look at the Shulchan which is on his right--the side of strength, conviction and veracity. There may be no covert motives in earning a living. We do what we must in order to sustain ourselves for a higher purpose, service of Hashem.

Moshe could not enter the Ohel Moed, for the cloud rested upon it. (40:35)

The Midrash explains that Moshe was not afraid to enter through the cloud. Indeed, we find in Parashas Mishpatim 24:18 that the cloud split open and permitted Moshe to walk through as if the path had been paved for him. Rather, the meaning of "v'lo yachol," "Moshe could not enter," is that Moshe gave reverence to the Shechinah and did not enter until Hashem called him. We may question the Torah's use of the phrase, "v'lo Yachol" "He could not." If Moshe's reluctance to enter was due to his remarkable derech eretz, respect for the Al-mighty, the Torah should have so stated. Instead, the Torah seems to imply that Moshe did not have the ability to enter.

Horav Shimon Schwab, zl, comments that concerning middos, moral characteristics, we accept the axiom that "hergel na'ase teva," habit becomes natural. In other words, if a person acts in a certain manner long enough, it becomes second nature for him. Moshe Rabbeinu was so diligent in the reverence he accorded the Shechinah, it literally became impossible for him to enter the cloud before Hashem called him to enter. The respect he gave the Shechinah became natural for him to the point that it went against every fiber of his being to do anything that even remotely suggested a lack of reverence.

With this idea in mind, Horav Schwab explains the praise and blessing we say at a bris milah, "As he (the child) entered into the bris, so too shall he enter into (the study of) Torah, chupah (marriage), and good deeds." Simply, as the bris is performed purely for the sake of Heaven, with the proper intentions and spirit, so, too, should these three seminal occasions in the child's life be l'shem Shomayim. We may wonder why the concept of mitzvah observance is excluded from the blessing. This phrase seems primarily to address the area of social mitzvos without dealing with man's relationship with Hashem.

Horav Schwab explains that this blessing addresses the metamorphosis that takes place within this infant. Until now he was an "areil," uncircumcised, and now he becomes a "mahul," circumcised. His teva, nature, changes. Likewise, we pray that he will change into a talmid chacham, Torah scholar; will enter matrimony where he will become a new, whole human being; will perform deeds of loving-kindness whereby his nature will change, and he will become naturally predisposed to these good deeds. Conversely, in regard to mitzvos that concern themselves with our service to the Al-mighty, they cannot be performed by rote as if they were part of our natural predisposition. We would become complacent in our ritual observance. Indeed, the last thing we want is for our mitzvah observance to become something "natural," a performance of habit. Consequently, we do not bless the infant that his "mitzvah performance" should have the same attitude and effect as Torah study, matrimony, and deeds of loving-kindness.

And Moshe raised up the Mishkan. (40:18)

Sforno explains that Moshe did not raise up the Mishkan in the usual sense. He first hung up the ten Yerios, curtains, which essentially represent the Mishkan. Afterwards, he laid down the Adanim, sockets, and interfaced the Kerashim, wooden beams, with them. Apparently, Moshe either had the Leviim hold up the curtains until the foundation was placed beneath them, or they were suspended miraculously in mid-air. Obviously, this is why no one but Moshe Rabbeinu was able to raise up the Mishkan. The question is why Moshe found it necessary to raise up the Mishkan in this manner. Furthermore, if the others were unsuccessful in their attempt to raise up the Mishkan, it would seem to indicate that this was the manner in which Hashem originally intended it to be raised. Once again we ask why. Would it have been inappropriate to raise the Mishkan in the usual manner?

Horav Nissan Alpert, zl, remarks that one places the foundation of an edifice in coordination with the basis of its strength. One builds a normal building from the bottom upward, since the earth is its base. The root of the Mishkan, however, is in Heaven. It represents the spiritual essence of Heaven--descended to earth. Indeed, Moshe sought to demonstrate this idea to the people by first suspending the curtains and then placing the sockets for the beams on the ground. He showed them that the Mishkan does not need material support, but, rather, it provides support. The foundation of the Mishkan is emunah, yiraas shomayim, and meticulous observance of every aspect of halachah. Who other than Moshe , who exemplified these qualities, was better suited to raise up the Mishkan?

This idea similarly applies to contemporary spiritual edifices. Regrettably, we concern ourselves more with their external beauty than with their spiritual essence. The foundation of every edifice/endeavor whose purpose is to serve as a center for spiritual activity is yiraas Shomayim, vigilance in mitzvah observance, Torah study, and acts of loving-kindness. The beauty of the external facade only serves to enhance its internal holiness.


1. What position of leadership did Isamar ben Aharon Hakohen maintain?

2. What does the name Betzalel allude to?

3. What material was used to make the Bigdei Kehunah, which was not used to make the Bigdei Srad?

4. What was Moshe Rabbeinu's contribution towards the construction of the Mishkan?

5. What blessing did Moshe confer upon B'nei Yisrael when the Mishkan was completed?

6. Where were the Luchos stored until they were placed inside the Aron?


1. He was in charge of the Leviim, ascertaining that each Bais Av had its designated work to perform.

2. B'tzel - Kel--In the shadow of the Almighty. Betzalel was able to perceive such lofty insight into the workings of the Mishkan that the wisdom he demonstrated could only have been obtained by one in close proximity to the Al-mighty.

3. Shesh--linen.

4. Moshe was the one who raised it up, a feat which no one else could accomplish.

5. ofsh vagnc vbhfa vra,a iumrhvu

6. Ramban says that Moshe kept them in a wooden box inside his own tent.

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