Vahak’hel: The master craftsman


master craftsmanIt has been a difficult week.  Two funerals of friends’ parents, two men who lived long lives and left behind large, loving families who remember them vividly and mourn the blank space left in their lives.


One man sold auto parts for a living, one sold cars.  One emigrated to three different countries in his lifetime, one never left the Chicago area, except to go to Florida for a few months at a time.  Both went off to work to a job for the sole purpose of supporting the families they held dearest in their hearts.  They were jobs. Their families were life.


At both shiva houses, I was asked to lead an evening minyan.  Honored to do so, and cognizant of the tradition that says there should be learning in a house of mourning, I naturally turned to this week’s Torah portion, Vayak’hel.  The people have been given the instructions on how to build the Tabernacle but they need a leader:  Bezalel, the master craftsman who was given the title of “general contractor”.


“See God has singled out Bezalel, son of Uri, son of Hur….God has endowed him with a divine spirit of wisdom, understanding, and knowledge…” (Ex 35: 30-31)  Why didn’t it just say that Bezalel was talented, or he was an amazing artist or designer?  The Torah goes to great length (three extra words…in the Torah, that’s a lot!) to describe Bezalel’s fitness for the job.


Wisdom, understanding, and knowledge.  This was going to be the people’s home for God – where God would dwell amongst them.  The specs were there.  How many cubits long, how to attach the tent sides, what to decorate with, and even the color scheme.  It was like an IKEA manual.  Why would Bezalel need wisdom, understanding and knowledge?


Because that’s what makes a job into a passion.  That’s what gives the task meaning and breath and life.  Bezalel had the mindfulness and intentionality to know why he was building this thing, not just the how.  Like all brilliant artists, he had the wisdom to know how  to turn art into something that would speak directly to the people, not just hang on a wall.  This was art that would change people’s lives.  This was design that would give meaning to the rituals of their lives.  Bezalel knew this, he understood this, and without the insight behind the sight, the Tabernacle wouldn’t have been the holy place it was.


These two men whose families mourn them this week saw the same kind of wisdom, understanding and knowledge in their lives.  Neither were great artists, though one did love to draw and paint.  Both had the wisdom and understanding, paired with their skills, to turn what they did for a living into the roofs, walls and decorations of their own holy places – their homes, filled with their children and grandchildren.


Blessed was Bezalel, and blessed were Leo and Bob.  

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2 Responses to Vahak’hel: The master craftsman

  1. Leslie Jo says:

    Anita, what a beautiful tribute to Leo and Bob, told so well, woven between The Torah, the lives they lived, and their families and friends who mourn them.

  2. susan glazer says:

    Thank you for being so loving, caring, intelligent, and teaching us all. You are the best friend anyone could have. Our entire family appreciates you and the wonderful example you are for all of us.

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