Saturday, February 26, 2011

Dvar Torah: Bezalel 1978

Beyond Words
Selected Writings of Rabbi Meir Kahane,
Volume 3   1977-1981

Dvar Torah: Bezalel

“Behold, I have called by name (b’shem) Bezalel the son of Uri, the son of Hur…” (Exodus 31:2)

The All Mighty chooses Bezalel to be the architect and the builder of the first temple of G-d, the Sanctuary in the desert.  In a sense, the Sanctuary had a holiness that neither of the two Temples in Jerusalem had.  For while in the case of the latter two, the vessels were captured by the destroyers  (and in the case of the second one, the vessels were not even there to begin with), the vessels of the Sanctuary were not allowed by the All Mighty to fall into the hands of the gentiles.  And so, we ask:  Why was it Bezalel who was especially chosen for the great honor of building this holy sanctuary? 

Secondly, what does the phrase “Behold I have called by name” (b’shem) mean?

Thirdly, why does the Torah bother to give the name of both the father and the grandfather of Bezalel?  Rarely do we find the name of a grandfather given EVERY time that someone is mentioned.  Why bother to mention Hur’s name?

It appears to me that the answer to these questions holds deep truths.  To begin with, let us see who Hur was.  We first find him in the chapter dealing with the famous battle of Amalek (Exodus 17).  It is he and Aaron who holds the hands of Moses as he holds them high – the hands that symbolize the faith and trust in  G-d.  And so, Hur becomes associated with the man of faith.  But there is more, for if that is all, why is not one of Aaron’s descendants chosen to build the Sanctuary?  The answer is that Hur is a man of faith – and more.  He is one who proves it by reaching its zenith – Kiddush Hashem.

As the Jews throw off the yoke of the All Mighty and make for themselves a golden calf, it is one man who stands up to protest.  Aaron attempts to gain time by portraying himself a one who goes along with the people in the hope that as he delays, Moses will return.  He is a man who has faith and will never, himself, worship anyone but the All Mighty, but he does not stand up to protest!  One man does that: Hur.  Our Rabbis tell us that it is Hur who rises up to shout that this is wrong, and he is killed by the Jews (Vayikra Rabbah 10:3)  Hur reaches the zenith of faith – Kiddush Hashem.  It is easy enough to say that one believes and has faith.  The ultimate proof of it is that one is prepared to endanger himself for Torah and perhaps even lose his life.  That is the essence of faith.  That is Hur, the grandfather of Bezalel.

And who was his father?  The Rabbis tell us that it was Caleb, the very same Caleb who, along with Joshua, was one of the two dissenting spies.   While the other ten, in fear and lack of faith, spoke of the dangers in Canaan and the impossibility of defeating the enemies there, it is Caleb and Joshua who stand up and say:  No, we can defeat the enemy, no matter how strong.  Let us have faith in the All Mighty.

Again, two men of faith, but again, one of them takes that faith to its ultimate test.  For the Torah singes out Caleb:  For My servant Caleb, because he had another spirit within him and has filled himself with faith after Me…” [“va’yemale acharai”] (Numbers 14:24).  Why is Caleb singled out over Joshua?  Because while both were men of faith, it was Caleb who rose to publicly protest the majority opinion: “And Caleb stilled the people … and said: Let us go up …” (ibid., 13:30).  It was Caleb who stood up before the raging mob and who endangered himself, who was prepared to give up his life, if necessary, for faith in G-d.  H reached the peak of that faith.

And that is why Bezalel, grandson and great-grandson of the men who reached the peak of faith, is chosen to build the Holy Sanctuary.  Because of the merit of his ancestors.  In return for Caleb’s being filled with another spirit, G-d says, concerning Bezalel:  And I shall fill him with the spirit of G-d”  (Exodus 31:3).  In return for the fact that Bezalel’s ancestors called G-d by name, sanctified His name, the All Mighty says: “Behold, I have called Bezalel by name.”  Indeed, in the manner that a man measures things, thus is he himself measured.

It is Kiddush Hashem, the willingness to give of oneself in order to sanctify and magnify the glory of the All Mighty, that is the touchstone of Judaism.  Our failure to understand that, our failure to take risks and to “endanger” ourselves, is the clearest proof of the shallowness of our so-called faith.  We shall merit building the new sanctuary on that day when we become the descendants of a Bezalel, a Hur and a Caleb.
Written on April 1978

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