Friday, March 13, 2015

Fundamentals First

וּבְצַלְאֵל בֶּן אוּרִי בֶן חוּר לְמַטֵּה יְהוּדָה עָשָׂה אֵת כָּל אֲשֶׁר צִוָּה יְהֹוָה אֶת משֶׁה
Bezalel, son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, had made all that the Lord had commanded Moses (Pekudei 38:22)

Rashi notes that the verse should have said that Betzalel did all that Hashem had commanded him (ie Betzalel). Instead it states that Betzalel did all that Hashem had commanded Moshe. Rashi explains that Moshe told Betzalel to build the vessels of the Mishkana nd only then to build the actual tabernacle. Betzalel questioned this order by pointing out that people first buy a house before they buy furnishings. Moshe admitted to Betzelel that Hashem had in fact commanded Moshe to first build the Tabenacle and only then to build the furnishings. Moshe then says that it seems as if Betzalel was standing in God's shadow ("Btzel Kel") for him to know those specifics.

We have to understand what was the difference of opinion between Moshe and Betzalel in terms of the order of comnstruction. and perhaps more fundamentally: why did Moshe diverge from Hashem''s command?

The actual Tabernacle was the basic unit of the Mishkan. It housed everything else and was the foundation of everything. On the other hand it was not as impressive or ornate or aesthetically inspirational. Moshe knew that the people were impressed by how things looked. He was worried how the Jews would respond if the first product of their efforts was a wooden tent covered with cloth. In order to inspire the people he wanted to start with the more impressive vessels, such as the Aron or the Menorah.

Betzalel knew better. Moshe was right: People are impressed by the aesthetics. But they need to be taught to that we start with the fundamentals. They may not be as  exciting or inspirational, but they are the basis upon which all other beautiful things can be built and housed. 

This message is so important for teachers, parents, spouses and really all of us to understand and live by: Fundamentals first. And from there we build the edifics into which we can add beauty, inspiration and aesthetics.

Friday, March 6, 2015

You Gotta Be Smart... If you Want To Be Smart

וּבְלֵב כָּל חֲכַם לֵב נָתַתִּי חָכְמָה וְעָשׂוּ אֵת כָּל אֲשֶׁר צִוִּיתִךָ:
"I have endowed the heart of every wise-hearted person with wisdom"
(Ki Tisa: 31: 6)

What sounds difficult to you about this phrase? For me the question is: Which came first? Were the people tasked with creating the Mishkan wise hearted already? And if so, why did Hashem need to give them wisdom, if they were already wise hearted? And if they wereonly wise after God endopwed them with wisdom, then why are they called "wise hearted" already at the beginning of the verse?

I believe that the answer is simple: If you want to become wise- you need to be wise. Even before one accumulates knowledge s/he needs to carefully craft a plan: Who will I learn from? How will I go about learning in an optimal fashion? And of course the wise-hearted understand at the outset that success is dependent on both his/her strategy as well as God's blessing- so prayer becomes a crucial factor in the plan.

It is in the merit of our being wise about our approach, that we hope to be blessed with the wisdom promised in this verse at a particular time and place, but useful for all of us, in every generation.