This post is part of a weekly series of Torah commentaries presented by the American Jewish World Service. It was guest writer and dvar tzedek alumna, Rachel Farbiarz.
In Parshat Vayakhel the Children of Israel built the Tabernacle. The project demanded of Israel formidable helpings of both creative energy and generosity. In the punishing desert, the people were expected to furnish a marvelous array of gold, silver, bronze, linens, indigo, hides, oils, incense and precious stones. ((Exodus 35: 6-9.)) And from these gifts, they were to carve, spin, cut, rivet, embroider, weave and fashion the Sanctuary’s sacral architecture and furnishings.
That such an effort could be successfully undertaken in the desert was extraordinary enough. That it be executed by a mass of recently-freed slaves—who, while well-accustomed to hard labor, were untutored in skilled craft—is understood as nothing less than miraculous. ((See, for example, Nachmanides on Exodus 35:21.)) This preternatural ingenuity is most plainly embodied in Bezalel, the man specially named by the Almighty to lead the construction efforts. A creative genius, Bezalel was “filled [ ] with a spirit of God in wisdom, in understanding, and in knowledge, and in every task.” ((Exodus 35: 30-31.))