22 Feb VAYAKHEL- PLANTING THE SEEDS FOR OUR FUTURE
Parashat Vayakhel tells about the construction of the Mishkan, a project which was led by a man named Betzalel. The Torah makes a point of informing us of not only Betzalel’s name and his father’s name, but also his grandfather’s name – Hur. Rashi, in his commentary, adds that Hur was the son of Miriam, Moshe’s sister.
Why did the Torah find it necessary to mention who Betzalel’s grandfather was, and why did Rashi find it necessary to inform us that Betzalel’s grandfather was Miriam’s son?
Let’s take a look at these two figures – Hur and Miriam.
Hur, along with Aharon, were the leaders whom Moshe appointed in his place when he went up to the top of Mount Sinai to receive the Torah. When the people decided to make a golden calf, they first approached Hur, who opposed the idea. The people pressured him, and he still refused, until they finally killed him.
Hur made the ultimate sacrifice for his principles, refusing to back down until he eventually sacrificed his life.
Miriam, while not giving her life, was similarly unyielding in her commitment to her principles. The Talmud teaches that her father, Amram, who was the Jews’ religious leader in Egypt, divorced his wife after Pharaoh issued his edict that newborn boys should be cast into the river. He decided that the people should no longer beget children. Miriam confronted her father, and said, “Your decree is worse than Pharaoh’s! He decreed only upon the boys – you’ve decreed upon both boys and girls!” Amram listened to her, and he and his wife remarried. His wife then gave birth to Moshe. When Moshe’s mother hid him in a basket in the river, it was Miriam who stood along the riverbank to watch him.
Miriam never backed down. She firmly believed in the future of the Jewish People, despite the suffering they were going through, and she did everything she could to follow through on her convictions.
People like Miriam and her son, Hur, planted the seeds that would eventually produce Betzalel. It is through unwavering devotion and sacrifice that we build families and produce offspring capable of building a “Mishkan,” bringing kedushah (holiness) into the world. This is why we are told about Betzalel’s illustrious origins.
The Rabbis teach that the work for the Mishkan was completed in the early winter, around Hanukah time, but it was not formally consecrated until Nissan. Hashem wanted the Mishkan to begin operating in Nissan because that is the month when our patriarch Yitzhak was born.
Yitzhak, who was placed on the altar and nearly sacrificed, represents the pinnacle of שפנ†תוריסמ†– boundless devotion and self-sacrifice for Hashem. In order to build a Mishkan, we need to enlist some of Yitzhak Avinu’s שפנ†תוריסמ, that willingness to sacrifice and give of ourselves for Hashem.
Our community, in so many ways, is far better than it used to be. When we look at the number of Torah classes being given, and how many people attend them, it is astounding. When we look at the number of families who strictly observe Shabbat and kashrut – it is so much higher than it was decades ago. In both quality and quantity, religious observance and commitment in our community has grown in leaps and bounds. This remarkable growth is due to the unbelievable שפנ†תוריסמ†of those who came before us, the people who built our community decades ago. They might have been less religiously observant than many of us are today, but their devotion and efforts were extraordinary, and heroic. They made great sacrifices to build institutions and provide their children with a Jewish education. They made great sacrifices to observe Shabbat and the holidays to whatever extent that they did. They made great sacrifices to maintain whatever standards of kashrut that they maintained. They planted the seeds that have produced the “Mishkan,” the beautiful community that we are today.
And it is through our שפנ†תוריסמ†that we plant the seeds of the future of our community. It takes a great deal of hard work and sacrifice to build and maintain our shuls and yeshivot, to care for our children, to provide them with a proper Torah education, and to make Torah and mitzvot a priority in our lives. But all this work plants the seeds that will eventually blossom.
Let us follow the inspiring example of those who came before us, and invest the work and effort entailed to raise our children along the path of Torah and to continue building our community – so that together, we build a magnificent “Mishkan” that will always be worthy of Hashem’s presence and blessing, amen.