So, not a “full seuda” parsha outline, but now before Shabbos some little smorgasbord tidbits on this week’s Torah Portion…
CHAPTER 31: Betzalel the son of Chur is chosen to be the artisan , along with Ehelee’av son of Achisumuch.
Why Betzalel – you can read his name as “btzel Kel” shadow of G-d – did not put his ego into the work, just did what G-d told him.
Most of us like to sign our artwork with a flourish of our name. Most of us like to write our articles with the aura of our byline. Most of us like to change things to reflect that is was me, I, super-ego self that imprinted a bit of me into that art or task. See how I did it? See my uniqueness? That is what most of us do. But not Betzalel. He wanted to create art that reflected the uniqueness and greatness of G-d Himself. No I there in Betzalel. Hence, he was the one chosen to be the foremost artist and made eternal by becoming acknowledged as the builder of the Mishkan.
Narrative of the building of Mishkan stops to tell us again about Shemiras Shabbos so that the Jews knew that they could not break Shabbos to build. Also, the concept of “melacha” of what constitutes the work we cannot do on Shabbos is what was done in the building of the Mishkan – the Lamed-tes Melachos (39 categories of “work” that made the Mishkan happen) are the categories of work off-limits on our holy 7th day.
Verse 13: remind the Jews to keep Shabbos “because it is a sign between me and them”
Sign of what? That G-d has chosen us.
Verse 17: “it is a sign forever” that in six days G-d created the world and on the seventh day He did not work and rested.
“a sign” The Chofetz Chaim: just as a store has a sign out to show they are in business, you know a person is in “business” of listening to G-d when they keep Shabbos.
Verse 15: ‘six days the work should be done’ == note to self – during the week we are supposed to be creative and work!
The story of the Golden Calf is this week’s sorry tale. We know the details. But, wait, strange thing: what is fascinating about the whole story of the Golden Calf is that only a few thousand out of a few million folks did it – -why does it seem that the whole nation is guilty? We say that the Jews did the Golden Calf…but we know those who did the sin got killed and they were a minority. Where was the rest of the folks? Hiding – not getting involved- staying away – they thought they wouldn’t be heard if they protested and they didn’t want to have confrontation. That was why it is as if we all did the Golden Calf sin. We let a bossy, deranged minority of us to take front and center stage and do wrong.
Moshe had pleaded to G-d on behalf of the Jews. G-d had said he would start a whole nation beginning with Moshe and Moshe did not agree, His agenda was to be completely selfless and self-effacing to protect the folks he was tasked with leading. Now, that’s a leader. Hasheevu shaftaynoo ka’vareeshona — may we merit such leaders again.
G-d relented and didn’t wipe out the Jews. And, as reward for his selflessness Moshe is told to ask something for himself — a personal favor. What Moshe asks is monumental. “Let me know Your ways, so that I can know You” “Show me Your Glory”
According to Meseches Brachos, Moshe asked the classic question – Tzaddik V’Rah Lo, Rasha V’Tov Lo – why do good people suffer….
Answer 1: verse 19
Verse 20: It is not possible to see “front” of G-d and live.
Moshe stands by rock and is hidden in cleft of rock and G-d “covers” Moshe with “His Palm” until He has passed. Then G-d will remove “palm” and Moshe will see G-d’s “back”
Hashem is perfect. Therefore, anything He does is perfect. We might not understand it, but that doesn’t mean it is unfair – it just means we see too little in life to understand the big picture. G-d explained to Moshe that no one can see Hashem, but Moshe gets a glimpse of G-d’s “back”. What does this mean and what does Moshe see? Moshe is shown a scene, a sort of movie at a private screening just for Moshe. Here are the scenes Moshe saw:
A man is traveling in the woods and a highwayman comes along and kills him, then steals his wallet full of money. The scene closes. Then Moshe is shown another scene. He sees two men, one an elderly tramp and another younger man. They get into an argument, and the younger man kills the tramp. A wallet falls out of the tramp’s pocket but the murderer doesn’t notice. He is too panicked, trying to hide the body. He finally hides the dead man and runs away from the area. Moshe then sees a little boy come along and find the tramp’s wallet, which is stuffed with money, and the boy happily runs home with the money. The scene ends.
Moshe is puzzled. What is the meaning of this, he asks G-d. Hashem explains that the tramp was the highwayman. The wallet of money the little boy found was the original money stolen. And the little boy was the son of the first murdered man, which means that the money rightfully belonged to him. That is what is meant to see the “back” of Hashem – that looking back at history, sometimes we see glimpses of how Hashem rights the wrongs and passes judgment. As Hillel said, “you were drowned because you drowned others and he who drowned you will be drowned.”
Our view is imperfect and that is why we think life is unfair. G-d and His ways are perfect. To the craziest tiniest degree. Another example to help us undertand it. Yirmiyahu was a prophet who had to tell the Jews that Hashem would exile and punish them, if they didn’t do Teshuva [repent]. He was not a very popular fellow, because the wayward folks wanted to continue doing immoral deeds. So, at one point, some folks took Yirmiyahu and threw him into a pit full of slimy mud where he was slowly drowning. Hashem had someone throw down a rope to him and he crawled out, hand over hand. Now, if you ever did rope climbing, you would know that pulling yourself up on a rope is painful to the hands which become blistered and bleeding. Yirmiyahu was mystified and he asked, “G-d, if you were saving me already, why not with a ladder, which would have been way more convenient for me.” To which G-d replied, “Yirmiyahu, with what did your great-grandmother save the lives of the spies? With a rope. A rope for a rope is how I saved you.” Yirmiyahu’s great-grandmother was Rachav HaZonah, and yes, she had saved the lives of the Jewish spies by lowering them from her roof with a rope. G-d rewards and punishes with the tiniest details in place. No one gets more than he deserves or less than he deserves in life.
Blind men cannot see a whole vista of a scene. Human beings cannot see the full picture that blends generations, decades and past and future into one big tapestry of which we only see minute parts. Therefore, humans have no way of thinking they are seeing the whole picture, and with that lack, have no way of judging fairness and justice.
Moshe Rabeinu asked for two things about knowing G-d: “Let me know Your ways,” and “Show me Your Honor”. G-d said no to the second request, which was a request to understand the WHYs in the world, why things happen to different people – that information was beyond human comprehension. But as to the first request of the “let me know Your ways,” which was Moshe asking to know HOW the world is run, G-d agreed to teach Moshe.
Rabbeinu Bachya explains that the WHY of the world we should not ask about. However, what we can understand of G-d, which is the HOW of the running of the world, that we have an obligation to know. The HOW of the world is basically the laws of nature which, according to Rabbeinu Bachya, is why the Torah starts with Maaseh Braishis, with the account of world creation. We need to understand the nature of the world and how nature was set up, because that leads us to Emunah [faith] and an understanding of Hashgacha Pratis [individual providence].