Parshas Vayakhel 5776
In this week’s parsha, Vayakhel, we read about the construction of the Mishkan and its vessels. The two men assigned to design and oversee this process are Oholiav, son of Achisamach, and Betzalel, son of Uri. Near the end of the description of the building, the verse tells us that “וַיַּעַשׂ בְּצַלְאֵל אֶת-הָאָרֹן, עֲצֵי שִׁטִּים: אַמָּתַיִם וָחֵצִי אָרְכּוֹ, וְאַמָּה וָחֵצִי רָחְבּוֹ, וְאַמָּה וָחֵצִי, קֹמָתוֹ.-And Betzalel made the Aron of acacia wood: Two and a half amos were its length, one and a half amos were its width, and one and a half amos were its height” (Shemos 37:1). Rashi raises an interesting question: given that Oholiav and the other “men, wise of heart” built the vessels as well, why is Betzalel’s the only name associated with the Aron? Rashi answers his question by commenting that Betzalel invested more of his soul into the project than did the other sages. This only begs a further question. Did not these wise men, handpicked by Moshe, put as much effort as possible in the construction? The response can come from a comment by the Ba’al HaTurim on the same verse. He wishes to know why Betzalel’s name is only mentioned by the Aron and not by any of the other vessels. He answers by saying that Betzalel’s exclusive mention relative to the Aron is because Betzalel understood the deep meaning of the Aron, the holiest vessel that is a counterpart to the Divine Throne. Based on this, it seems that Betzalel merited to have his name connected with the Aron rather than the other wise men was because he invested his soul the most of all of them in understanding the Aron’s secrets. While they also put effort into the construction, he put in the most effort.
We can derive from these insightful comments a deep message about the meanings of our own lives. A name is something by which one is remembered, one’s legacy, so to speak. Hashem gave us both free will and the ability to invest our souls in the understanding of something. We can see from the aforementioned commentators that this legacy depends on what we choose to the recipients of this investment, and on how much effort we choose to exert. If we choose to focus on the vain and material and waste our spiritual potential on emptiness, then “הֲבֵל הֲבָלִים הַכֹּל הָבֶל-Vanities of vanities, all is vain” (Kohelet 1:1), our names are connected with this vision of inanity. If, on the other hand, we follow the path of Betzalel and the wise men and put more of our soul into the understanding of Divine and the Torah, then we are remembered, both by man and by Hashem as connected with holiness. As Kohelet concludes, “סוֹף דָּבָר, הַכֹּל נִשְׁמָע: אֶת-הָאֱלֹהִים יְרָא וְאֶת-מִצְוֹתָיו שְׁמוֹר, כִּי-זֶה כָּל-הָאָדָם.-The end of the matter, all having been heard: fear the Lord and guard his commandments, for this is the sum of man” (Kohelet 12:13).