Thursday, March 30, 2006

Psalm 34: Who Wants a Good Life?


How does one live a good life? The psalmist reveals the secret to good living:

"Who is the person who desires life, who loves days to see good? Watch your tongue from evil, and your lips from speaking guile. Turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it." [Psalm 34:13-15]


The recipe for good living, the psalm teaches, lies in good speech. Why does speech play such a critical role?

Two Worlds

We live in two worlds. The first is the outer world, consisting of our various needs and activities, both as individuals and as members of society. The second world is our inner life, a sublime realm of holiness and purity. The psalm appears to be repetitive because it relates to both of these aspects of life.

"Who desires life?" This refers to our inner world, a realm of life itself, unrestrained by the framework of time. "Loving days to see good," on the other hand, refers to our outer world of beneficial activities that we perform over the years. Like an outer peel protecting the inner fruit, these actions are means to a goal; they acquire meaning as they lead towards their ultimate objective. Thus, the verse refers to our natural desire for purity and goodness of life in both aspects: our inner world of life itself, and longevity of days to allow us to perform many actions benefiting the world.

Inner and Outer Speech

Just as we live in two realms, so too, we have a form of speech for each realm. One is directed inwards, while the other is directed outwards for interpersonal relations. Our inner speech is connected to spiritual values, such as prayer and Torah study. (The mitzvah of Torah study is only truly performed when it is verbalized. See Eiruvin 53b; Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 47:4.) Our outer speech, on the other hand, is verbal communication for the sake of fulfilling our various needs, both personal and social.

The two phrases, guarding the "tongue from evil" and "lips from speaking guile," correspond to these two forms of speech. The tongue and lips are the principle organs used to form words. The tongue, situated inside the mouth, is a metaphor for our elevated, inner speech; while the lips, located outside the mouth, represent our practical, external speech.

We need to be careful in both types of speech. We protect our inner life by watching over the tongue, the faculty of inner speech. This form of speech needs to be protected from evil itself, by avoiding the expression of spiritually-damaging thoughts and concepts. "Watch your tongue from evil." Thus, the Torah prohibits even mentioning the names of idolatry [Ex. 23:13]. When we carefully guard our inner speech, our soul preserves its pristine purity, and our spirit retains the energy needed to perform beneficial actions. By guarding the tongue, we "avoid evil and (are free to) do good."

The faculty of external speech, represented by the lips, is used primarily for interpersonal relations. The psalmist warns us to guard our "lips from speaking guile," for if we do not properly restrain our external speech, our social interactions will be contaminated by guile and deception. But when we watch over this form of speech, then we may attain social harmony and peace - "seek peace and pursue it."

[adapted from Olat Re'iyah vol. II pp. 65-66]

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Psalm 19: The Power of Holy Speech


How can one gain a sense of God's infinite greatness? The nineteenth psalm utilizes two methods. The first method is to reflect on the beauty and inner order in creation. Thus, the first half of the chapter describes the power and magesty of the heavenly bodies. "The heavens declare God's honor, and the sky tells of the work of His hands" [19:2].

Starting with the eighth verse, however, the psalmist makes an abrupt change, using a second method to contemplate God's greatness. The second half of the psalm reflects on the qualities of truth, clarity, and perfection that are revealed in His Torah. The Torah restores the soul and makes the simple wise. Its laws enlighten the eyes and gladden the heart.

The psalm closes with a request:

"May the words of my mouth and the reflections of my heart find favor before You — God, my rock and redeemer." [19:15]


Why is God referred to as a redeemer? From what is He redeeming us? And why does the psalmist mention his spoken words before the reflections of his heart? Do not people first think and then speak?

Redemption from Failure

Immediately preceding this request, the psalm takes note of the innate fallibility of human nature. "Who understands errors?" "Restrain Your servant from deliberate sins too; let them not dominate me" [19:13,14]. What do human frailties have to do with the wonderful qualities of the Torah?

We may be deeply aware of the purity and truth of God's Torah, as the psalmist expressed. Yet we are hindered from following the Torah's laws as faithfully as we desire due to our innate weaknesses, our limited intellectual capacity, and our flawed self- control. The raging storms of our physical nature continually disturb and hound the spiritual light within us as it yearns for ever-greater holiness. How can we shield and protect the soul's holy aspirations and desires?

Two Gifts

The answer lies in two God-given gifts, one internal and one external.

The first gift is the heart's inner core of purity. When the psalmist speaks of "the reflections of my heart," he is referring to this inner kernel of holiness. Ultimately, we will discover in our hearts the ray of pure, Godly light. When we are able to free ourselves from the darkness of our imaginings, when we are able to overcome our hesitancy and fear and look towards the inner self, then our heart's thoughts will always be imbued with holiness. Our heart's reflections will then be illuminated with light from the source of true, elevated life.

In qualitative terms, this inner holiness of the heart transcends entire worlds. Nonetheless, it may be quantitatively overwhelmed by the rush of everyday life. Therefore, God provided us with a second gift, an external one: the holiness of speech. When we vocalize God's holy words in Torah study and prayer, we are able to restore the dormant holiness of the inner heart. The sublime kernel, our true essence, is like a kidnapped princess who may be rescued by the gift of holy speech. This is the secret power of speech when it expresses the hidden treasure residing in our inner selves.

Thus, the psalmist first mentions "the words of my mouth." Our speech in Torah and prayer in turn awakens our inner kernel of holiness, "the reflections of my heart." We pray that both of these faculties help us live favorably before God, "my rock and redeemer," who redeems us from the emptiness and crassness of mundane life through these two spiritual gifts.

[adapted from Olat Re'iyah vol. II. pp. 60-61]

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Israelis Continue to Wake Up to the Arab Threat...



Some very positive news indeed:


http://www.nrg.co.il/online/1/ART1/063/680.html

For those of you who cannot read Hebrew here is a quick summary (courtesy of the Revava forum):

40% say that they support encouraged Arab emigration from Israel
63% say Israeli Arabs are a security threat.
68% wouldn't live near Arabs.
50% wouldn't let an Arab into their home.
41% say there should be separate places of entertainment for Arabs.
34% believe Arab culture is inferior to Jewish culture.

Well, it seems that slowly but surely the public are beginning to wake up. Is it too late? Well, I suppose it's never too late to do Teshuva, but if things don't change drastically very soon it'll get worse before it gets better.

If only they'd listened to Rabbi Kahane when he was still alive and not waited 16 years after his murder to realise how right he was! How different things would be now...

But let's hope that this trend continues, and the way to help things along is to spread the Idea. May G-D give us success in this noble endeavour!

Thursday, March 16, 2006

All Together Now???


BS"D

YESHIVAT HARA'AYON HAYEHUDI
Jerusalem, Israel
HaRav Yehuda Kroizer SHLIT"A, Rosh Yeshiva

PARSHAT KI TISA/SHABBAT PARAH
18 Adar, 5766/17-18 March, 2006



ALL TOGETHER NOW???

Hashem said to Moses: "Take yourself spices - stacte, onycha and galbanum - spices and pure frankincense: they shall be equal one to another." Here the Torah is commanding the Kohanim (priests), who, in their daily work in the Temple service, had to bring a blend of 11 different spices mixed together to be burnt on the golden altar. So beautiful was the aroma of the holy incense, that when it was burnt in Jerusalem, the brides of Jerusalem would not need to perfume themselves for their wedding day because of the strong and wonderful fragrance coming from the Temple.

Still, our Rabbis informs us that the galbanum, one of the 11 items of incense used in the daily ceremony, had a very foul smell, yet the Torah still counted it among the 11 types of incense that were burnt on the altar. Rashi explains that this is in order to teach us that we should not consider it insignificant to include the sinners of Israel with us as members of the congregation for our fasts and prayers, so that they should be counted among us. The Talmud teaches us that any fast in which the sinners of Israel do not participate, is not a fast. The galbanum has a foul smell, yet the Torah listed it with the ingredients of the incense.

How noble is this idea that the unity of the Jewish people must also include within us the sinners - otherwise, there is no unity at all. Could there be a higher goal than this?

But, wait: What is this? Just a few lines away from this noble cause, we find the unfolding story of the atrocity of the golden calf. So severe was the sin of worshipping the calf, that our Rabbis teach us that there is no punishment in this world brought down to the Jewish people without some punishment for this sin, meaning that this sin will follow us until the end of days. Even more disturbing, we find Moses' battle cry for all who fear the L-rd to come to his aid, and to go through the camp and kill all those who worshipped the calf. "And the Levites did according to the word of Moses, and there fell of the people about three thousand men on that day."

But wait, isn’t this the exact opposite of the concept that we had just learned: to also include the sinners of Israelwith us? Why have them killed? Is that nice? Surely, we must hold on to our unity!

To answer this troubling predicament, we turn to the Rambam (Maimonides) in his laws of Teshuva - Repentance -where he writes: All the sinners of Israel are judged according to their sins, and they have a place in the world to come, for all of Israel have a place in the world to come even though they have sinned. Then the Rambam goes on to teach us: And these are the ones who have no place in the world to come, whose sins are so great that they are forever cut off from the people... He goes on to detail a list of some 14 categories of Jews who lose their world to come.

It seems that sometimes a Jew's actions are so severe, so appalling, that he can actually lose everything, including being cut off from his people forever. What type of sins would these be? It would have to include sins that fall into the category of public sinning, such as worshipping idols, causing others to sin, denying the Torah, blasphemy, and such. Such a sinner loses all, as the Rambam writes, and so we find Moses commanding the Levites to kill all who worshipped the golden calf, for they have no place with us.

On the other hand, sinners in private matters surely can repent of their sins and return, just as the Torah includes the galbanum with the other incense to teach us that the community of Israel is made up of all; the righteous, the mediocre, and the sinners. Yes, even the sinners, as long as they don’t step out of the category of being part of the Jewish people - for then they exclude themselves from us. As the Haggada of Passover teaches us concerning the four sons: The wicked one says: How did Hashem do all of this for you, for you and not for him - for if he was in Egypt he would not have been redeemed.

This, then, is the lesson of the galbanum: Unity, yes, but not at any price!


With love of Israel,
Levi Chazen

Ki Tisa: When Bad Things Happen to Good People


Ki Tisa: When Bad Things Happen to Good People


After Moses succeeded in petitioning God to forgive the Jewish people for the sin of the golden calf, he made an additional request from God: "If You are indeed pleased with me, allow me to know Your ways" [Ex. 33:12].

What exactly did Moses desire to know? The Talmud [Berachot 7a] explains that Moses wanted to understand the age-old problem of reward and punishment in this world:

"Master of the World! Why is it that some righteous people prosper, while others suffer? Why do some wicked people prosper, and others suffer?"


Two Factors

According to Rabbi Yossi, God fulfilled Moses' request. The Talmud initially explains that anomalies in divine justice in this world stem from ancestral merits. A righteous person whose parents were wicked may undergo suffering in this world, while a wicked person whose parents were righteous may be rewarded.

However, the Sages were not satisfied with this explanation. Why should a righteous person who rejected his parents' evil ways be punished? On the contrary, he should be rewarded doubly! The Sages concluded that if there are righteous who suffer, it must be because they are not completely righteous. (This is usually understood that they are punished in this world for their sins so that their reward in the next world will be complete.) Similarly, the wicked who prosper must not be totally evil. They receive reward in this world for the few merits they do possess.

(The Talmud also mentions an additional factor, called "Afflictions of Love." Even a perfectly righteous individual may suffer in this world in order to gain additional reward in the afterlife.)

Upon inspection, we discover that these two mitigating factors — ancestral merit and incompleteness of righteousness or wickedness — are interrelated. Some actions are performed purposely, by choice; while others — the majority — are done without thought, but by habit or training. For a righteous person from a righteous family, good deeds come naturally. He does not need suffering in order to refine his soul. The righteous individual born in a wicked family, on the other hand, must work harder. His good deeds are a conscious effort, going against his education and natural bent. He therefore needs the refinement that comes from suffering in order to perfect his character traits.

The wicked person who hails from a righteous family is naturally helpful to others, and may have inherited many other positive character traits. Therefore, his portion in life is good, as he contributes to the world. But the wicked who comes from a wicked family is usually an utterly evil person. His lot in life is made unstable, in order to limit the destruction that he may cause in the world.

Beyond Our Grasp

The Talmud records a second opinion, Rabbi Meir, who disagreed with Rabbi Yossi. According to Rabbi Meir, God did not fulfill Moses' request to understand the mechanics of suffering and reward in this world. The complex calculations of how much of our actions is a function of free will, and how much is due to society, education, and family background – belong to the Creator alone. The knowledge needed in order to understand divine justice in this world is beyond the grasp of all humans — even the master of all prophets, Moses.

[adapted from Ein Eyah vol. I, p.32]

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Purim 5766 - and Still Going Strong!


BS"D

YESHIVAT HARA'AYON HAYEHUDI
Jerusalem, Israel
HaRav Yehuda Kroizer SHLIT"A, Rosh Yeshiva

PARSHAT TETZAVEH
11 Adar, 5766/10-11 March, 2006



PURIM 5766 - AND STILL GOING STRONG!

Some weeks ago the president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, while denying that a Holocaust against the Jews took place during World War 2, stated that there was indeed a holocaust which took place in Iran some 2000 years ago, in which the Jews killed thousands of people, and to this day still celebrate year in and year out with singing and drinking. He was, of course, talking about the story of Purim.

Some might indeed mistakenly come to the conclusion that all killing is a bad thing. In fact, we find even among fellow liberal Jews, that the holiday of Purim can make them blush and feel uncomfortable, for here we find the Jews celebrating the downfall of their enemies after killing some 75,000 of them. Now how un-Jewish is that?

There is, then, in this world good and evil, and they are not the same - and Woe to one who mixes up the two! Take, for instance, the example during World War 2, when Germany bombed England and England bombed Germany. Both bombed, but surely, every sane person knows that one was pure evil and one was fighting for good.

Hashem has created good as well as evil in this world, and it is our job to complete creation and eliminate evil from the world. Amalek and his physical and spiritual heirs must ultimately be wiped off the face of the earth, as King David said: I hate all those who hate You (Hashem). King David himself had killed thousands, as the Book of Samuel tell us: Saul with his hundreds and David with his thousands. Still, all whom King David killed were looked upon as a sacrifice before Hashem, for David had eliminated evil from this world, thereby making it a better place.

Today we are witnessing, throughout the world and in Israel, the mercy of fools; those taking pity on the wicked - such behavior is not good, but evil. How clearer a signal could Hashem have sent us than the Hamas
landslide victory? Now it is clear for all to see that there are no innocent bystanders among the Arabs living here in Israel. Clearly, the great majority of them want to see Israel destroyed, as was made clear by them in their elections. It is high time for Israel to act accordingly and stop playing around, claiming that there are innocents in the area and moderates to work with. Clearly the law must be the same for all of them.

And still, we see the nations of the world continuing to explain away the Hamas victory, even as the Arabs have learned to use the great tool of democracy to their advantage. They (the nations) too, are guilty of taking pity on the wicked, and surely this, too, will backfire on them in the end. As nation after nation invites Hamas to visit, and the European Union and the U.S. continues to pour millions of dollars in the PA, which of course will go to continuing their terror campaign.

So, it really is too bad that the beloved president Ahmadinejad of Iran does not understand the difference between one who comes to kill, and one who kills defending himself. For history repeats itself so often. And if he comes, like so many before him, against the Jewish State - he and his people will be the ones to fall. It is worth recalling the strange last words uttered by one of the leading Nazis, who was hung after Nuremberg trials: "PurimFest 1945".

So take note, cruel and harsh world: Purim is still going strong for the Jewish people!


With love of Israel,
Levi Chazen

Purim: "Go, Gather All the Jews"




During these days of Purim, in these difficult hours, many adversities from without besiege and afflict the entire nation of Israel.

Yet the greatest anguish stems from our internal conflicts, because internal tranquility, the peaces of the House of Israel, is lacking. Let us then recall those days and their events as they are recorded in the Scroll of Esther, written, as it was, with divine inspiration. For the divine spirit transcends all passages of time and the changing ideologies of each generation. The eternal words "Go, gather all the Jews" must once again revitalize us and elevates us from our degradation.

Is Unity Possible?

But one may certainly ask: Is it really possible today to gather all of the Jews? How can one unite all the different factions and parties? How will the bones scattered across the wide valley of exile — both material and spiritual — once again form that entity known as "Klal Yisrael" and put forth a demand for its strength, its renewal, and a return from its captivity?

The answer is that there is one location where this dispersion, both physical and spiritual, cannot govern us. But you should object: We see with our own eyes the awful internal strife, Jews fighting Jews, brothers turning against brothers like wolves and snakes. How then can one say, "Go, gather the Jews"?

Whoever thinks that Haman was lying when he said, "There is one nation scattered and divided" [Esther 3:8], is mistaken. Indeed, this one nation is scattered and divided, but nevertheless, it is one nation. Nor should one question the possibility of a nation being simultaneously united and divided. There are wonders in the world. This nation, whose entire existence in the world rests upon wondrous wonders, demonstrates by its very existence that it is essentially one nation, despite its being scattered and divided.

True, the malady of exile has scattered and divided us. But the Eternal One of Israel does not lie. The exile and all of its terrors must come to an end. Now that the wind has begun to blow from the four corners of the earth, from both the troubles surrounding us and from the spiritual revelation which stirs us to return and be rebuilt in the land of our life — now we are nearing the realization that there is a cure for the malady of our dispersion and division. In the final analysis, we are, and shall be, one nation, and Israel shall once again rise to the eternal words, "Go, gather all the Jews."

The Hidden Collective Soul

But the difficult question obstructing the path of redemption remains: dispersion and division are consuming us. The answer is that a person has two aspects. Medical treatment of the individual draws from the inner springs of vitality and health dormant within a person's soul. That soul is so hidden that the patient himself is unaware of its essence. Spiritual maladies and their physical manifestations infect only the baser part of man, that familiar side of which he is aware. But his hidden, unknown side always bursts with energy, brimming with life and strength. This hidden repository of health has the power to affect the outer self, which misleads one into thinking that he is sick and feeble when he in fact possesses an energetic, healthy soul full of life and vigor.

That which is true for the individual applies to a much greater degree to the entire collective. "Klal Yisrael" in particular is truly one nation: "And who is like Your nation, Israel, one nation in the land?" [I Sam. 15:19] We must therefore admit our error in identifying the essence of Israel with its surface appearance, its outer, baser side. For this self-image has made us fearful. We are conscious only of our dispersion and division.

The Hamans of every generation, who strike at us with their poisonous hatred, particularly in this transition period, perceive our weak side, for it is visible and recognizable. But precisely through these tribulations we shall come to sense that we possess a previously unknown, collective soul, a great national spirit whose existence we have forgotten. It abounds with vitality and possesses sufficient power to renew our lives as of old and to withstand all of the Amalekites who wish to smite our feeble.

This hidden Judaism, unknown even to ourselves, this great soul of a great nation, which bears both the suffering and the light of the world within it, will become known to us during these portentous times. The blessing of "Go, gather the Jews" will emerge from its unknown place in the national soul. Every Purim we must appreciate the great, hidden repository of our blessedness and wealth and the virtue of our oneness, which shall vanquish our scattered and divided side. From a condition of 'until he cannot distinguish between cursed is Haman and blessed is Mordechai' comes the supernal inclination to find the unknown Jew within us. Brothers shall know one another and join hands, and a mighty voice will be heard: "Let us rise up and ascend to Zion, to the house of our Lord!" [Jer. 31:5]

[from "Celebration of the Soul," translated by R. Pesach Jaffe, pp. 126-129]

A Reminder of the Enemy from Within...


... as Rabbi Kahane used to say: "beards carry no immunity..."



From "zalmi.blogspot.com"

Who Said It ?

"With the help of the Almighty, Asaloom Aleikem
Leaders of Hamas, upon your elevation to the position of official representatives of the entire Palestinian people, we offer our blessing and a prayer to the Almighty:
MAY the Almighty guide you and bestow upon you His wisdom to enable you to lead the Palestinian nation according to His will.
MAY the Almighty unite the hearts of the Palestinian people to accept and embrace your leadership with love and good will.
MAY it be the will of the Almighty that we should merit to see the peaceful and speedy dismantlement of the Zionist entity - the state of “Israel” and the transformation of rule over the entire Holy Land, including of course Al-Quds, to its proper rulers, the Palestinian people."


Is this a message from Al Qaeda?
Perhaps the Muslim Brotherhood?
Or maybe the Iranian ayatollahs?
Actually, it’s none of the above.
It’s Rabbi Yisroel David Weiss of the Neturei Karta.
These are the people who took a >$55,000 bribe from Arafat in early 2002 to betray their own people.
Let them know what you think of them by emailing them here.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Parshat Teruma - Still Much Work To Do!

BS"D

YESHIVAT HARA'AYON HAYEHUDI
Jerusalem, Israel
HaRav Yehuda Kroizer SHLIT"A, Rosh Yeshiva

PARSHAT TERUMA
4 Adar, 5766/3-4 March, 2006



STILL MUCH WORK TO DO!

Dovid from Monsey was pacing back and forth, continuously glancing at the phone. He had heard that Mashiach Ben David had arrived, and he was waiting to hear more news. It was then when the phone rang, and quickly
Dovid picked it up. "Shalom Aleichem", said the voice on the other side. Dovid's heart skipped a beat. "This is Mashiach Ben David, and I have booked you and your family on Thursday's El-Al flight at 7:00 PM. from JFK to Tel
Aviv. For as you know, I am bringing all the exiles back to Israel." Dovid looked at his calendar and saw that he had a business meeting that Thursday. "Maybe you can make it for next week, huh? I’m a little busy right now, and
anyway, I’m making arrangements right now for our Passover vacation in downtown Miami."

Unfortunately, so many of the Jewish people want to believe that Mashiach will be a first-rate travel agent who will book us all flights home to the Holy Land. So many of us are waiting for that phone call telling us which flight we are booked on. How easy and grand life would be without us having to lift a finger in this process! And in fact, before the discovery of aviation travel, Jews throughout the world, with no way of reaching the Holy Land by any means, would sit around and wait for the knock on the door and the ride on the flying carpet to the Land of Israel. Unfortunately, that knock did not come. For Dovid of Monsey, though, that doesn’t mean that the phone call won't come, as he continues to sit around and wait.

This week’s parsha should put to rest any arguments for the philosophy of sitting around and waiting for the Redemption of the Jewish people. The Torah commands us to build a sanctuary for Hashem, that He may dwell within. This commandment is brought down by the Rambam (Maimonides) as a commandment incumbent upon the Jewish people in every generation. No one argues on the Rambam that this commandment is not for every generation, or that it is dependent upon the arrival of a particular person (Mashiach). We find in the Talmud that Hashem tells the Jewish people that He will not enter into the heavenly Jerusalem until the Jewish people first enter into the earthly Jerusalem. Hence, the need to act before Hashem does His part!

To bring this important lesson home, the Torah commands us not only to build the sanctuary, but also everything involved with its work. For example: You shall make the Menorah, you shall make the Aron, you shall make the table for the showbreads, you shall make a cover for the Tent, you shall make the beams, you shall make the bars, you shall cover the beams with gold, you shall put a lid upon the Aron, you shall make the altar, you shall make the courtyards, and on and on and on.

And it seems that Hashem knew whom He was talking to: The Jew who likes to wait around for things to happen, but not make it happen. For we find in our parsha that the command "to make" alone is given to us OVER 70 times.
That’s right, hello, is anyone out there?! Over 70 times Hashem troubles Himself to tell us that we have the commandment to make various items for the Beit Hamikdash, right down to the smallest detail, because it's up to us to make it happen, to put it all together. No sitting around stuff, but a "go up and do attitude", dude, for only after we jump into the waters will they split.

So, Dovid of Monsey and all the other Dovids out there - I got news for you: The Torah cannot say it any clearer: Do Get Up and Do, because Mashiach is not a travel agent - and you might just miss the plane.

With love of Israel,
Levi Chazen

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Terumah: Betzalel's Wisdom


The Torah reading of Terumah begins the section dealing with building the Mishkan (Tabernacle) and making the priestly clothes. These chapters are among the few in which the Torah places great emphasis on external beauty - art, craftsmanship, and aesthetics.

Of particular interest is the protagonist of this unique construction: the master craftsman, Betzalel. The Midrash weaves many stories about Betzalel's wisdom and skill. In particular, the Sages noted the significance of his name, which means, "in God's shadow":

"Betzalel's name reflected his wisdom. God told Moses, 'Tell Betzalel to make the tabernacle, the ark, and the vessels.' When Moses relayed the message to Betzalel, however, Moses changed the order: first the ark, then the vessels, and lastly, the tabernacle.


"Betzalel turned to Moses. 'Moses, our teacher, usually one first builds the house, and then places the furniture inside. Yet you said to make the vessels and then the tabernacle. These vessels that I will make - where shall I put them? Perhaps God told you, "tabernacle, ark and vessels"?' Moses replied in amazement, 'You must have been in God's shadow and overheard!'" [Berachot 55a]


Betzalel was certainly sharp to be able to reconstruct the original Divine message. Why did Moses change the order that God had told him?

The Scholar and the Artist

One way in which we can distinguish between the scribbles of a five-year-old and a masterpiece by Rembrandt is the degree to which the work of art reflects reality. A true artist is acutely sensitive to the finest details of nature. He must be an expert in shading, color, texture, and composition. A great artist will be disturbed by the smallest deviations, just as a great musician is perturbed by a note that is not exactly right in pitch, length, and emphasis.

There is a difference between the natural order of the world as perceived through the trained eye of an artist, and the proper order as understood through the wisdom of a scholar. The artist always compares the subject at hand to reality. The scholar, on the other hand, organizes topics according to their ethical and spiritual significance.

When Moses heard God command that Betzalel build the "tabernacle, ark, and vessels," he did not know whether the order was significant. Since the tabernacle was in effect just the outer building containing the ark and the other vessels, Moses knew that the ark and vessels were holier. Therefore, when relaying the command to Betzalel, he mentioned them in order of importance, starting with the most sacred.

Why then did God put the tabernacle first? Moses decided that the original command started with the general description - the Tabernacle, the overall goal - and then continued with the details - the ark and vessels.

Betzalel, an artist with a finely tuned sensitivity to the physical reality, noticed the slight discrepancy in Moses' description. He realized that the word tabernacle did not refer to the overall construction, but to the outer building. As such, it should have come first, just as in the building of any home. The order was not from the general to the detailed, nor from the less holy to the holier, but from the outside to the inside.

Moses then comprehended the significance of Betzalel's name, "in God's shade." Why shade? Wisdom may be compared to light, while artistic talent is like shade. Light is certainly greater and brighter then shade; but if we want to perceive an object completely, we need to see all of its aspects, both light and shade. In order that the Tabernacle could achieve its purpose, it required the special artistic insight of Betzalel.

[adapted from Ein Ayah vol. II, p. 262]