The Faithful Artisans

Rabbi Reuven Mann

This week’s Parsha, Pekudei, describes the actual construction of the Mishkan and brings to a close the second Book of the Torah. The main and recurring theme of this section, is that the craftsmen who had been commissioned to erect the Tabernacle, were meticulous in doing everything according to the exact instructions conveyed by Hashem through Moshe.

The dedication of the workers–to refraining from instituting any changes in G-d’s design of the Sanctuary–was so significant, that Aaron himself comes in for praise on this matter. He was tasked, with lightning the Menorah in a very precise manner. The verse informs us that; “Aaron did so, toward the face of the Menorah he kindled its lamps; as Hashem had commanded Moshe.” Commenting on this, Rashi says, that this is “to convey the praises of Aaron who did not deviate” (Bamidbar 8:3).

Apparently, the temptation to innovate in the manner of serving Hashem, is very great. But Judaism is extremely leery about man’s religious imagination. He has a tendency to fashion deities that appeal to his emotions, but do not draw him close to the Creator of the universe. The Torah, therefore, abundantly emphasizes that the Mishkan’s workers, relinquished their independent creativity and adhered  to the instructions they had been given.

The Ramban points out, how truly amazing it was that Betzalel and the other artisans, were able to perform the very delicate sculpting that was required to fashion the Mishkan’s vessels. For, he says, they did not receive that kind of training in Egypt; where to the contrary, they were subjected to arduous labor which would make them even less capable of carrying out skillful and delicate craftsmanship.

So how was Betzalel able to acquire the vast array of technical skills which he needed for his tasks?

“Hashem spoke to Moshe saying: ‘See, I have called by a name; Betzalel son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah. And I have filled him with a G-dly spirit; with wisdom, insight, and knowledge, and with every craft. To weave designs; to work with gold, silver, and copper. And stone-cutting for setting and wood-carving; to perform every craft’’’ (Shemot 31:1-5).

In addition to these special talents, he possessed “great wisdom and understanding, to understand the secret of the Mishkan and it’s vessels, why they were commanded and what they had reference to” (Nachmanides, Shemot 31:2).

The team of craftsmen, assembled to build the Mishkan, possessed great wisdom and outstanding moral qualities. In general, artists tend to be egotistical, quirky individuals who like to work in isolation. While building the Sanctuary, however, everyone had to put aside his ego, and act according to the divine instructions. The desire of all the builders was to glorify the Name of Hashem, by constructing a unique edifice, dedicated to His service.

There are many lessons we can learn from the successful construction of the Mishkan. One of them is, that Hashem has endowed certain individuals with great artistic talents. It is not always a blessing to have unusual capabilities. Many such people suffer because they have no viable outlet for their skills. They also are bothered by the fact that they are not recognized by society. Many biographies attest to the fact that people with great skills–in writing, painting, sculpting, singing, acting and so forth–lived painful, even miserable lives.

This is because the need for recognition and popular acclaim is very powerful; and if frustrated, can have dangerous consequences. Hashem “filled” Betzalel and Ahaliov and others with great talents; but He also gave them a heart of wisdom, to understand what is important and to what endeavors their efforts should be directed.

The call, which went out to the nation to contribute material resources and personal services to establish the Sanctuary, was met with great enthusiasm. Everyone came forth to offer something–until much more than was necessary, was brought–and Moshe put out the word that no more was to be brought. Nothing was taken from the people beyond that which was necessary. Every  donation was used for its intended purpose.

May Hashem grant us the wisdom to know what is truly essential in life; and what we should donate our resources and personal capabilities to. It is only by joining together with the right people, who are devoted to the genuine service of Hashem, that we can attain a life of meaning and purpose. May we merit to achieve it.

Shabbat Shalom.

Dear Friends,

I am pleased to announce that my newest book, Eternally Yours: G-d’s Greatest Gift to Mankind on Vayikra, has been published, and is now available at

We will soon be reading the third Book of the Torah, Vayikra, and I hope that my essays will enhance your reading and study of it. Additionally, I would greatly appreciate anyone, who would post a brief review on

—Rabbi Reuven Mann