24 Feb 2022 Parshas Vayakhel: The Master Craftsman & His Grandfather
In this week’s parsha, Parshas Vayakhel, the pasukim outline, in great and precise detail, the construction of the Mishkan, the portable Sanctuary that accompanied the Bnei Yisrael throughout their desert wanderings, where the Shechina dwelt. The master craftsman of the Mishkan, who oversaw and was responsible for all the work, was Betzalel ben Uri ben Chur from the tribe of Yehuda. Alongside him worked Ohaliav ben Achisamach from the tribe of Dan.
The pasukim tell us: And Moshe said to the Children of Israel: רְא֛וּ קָרָ֥א ה’ בְּשֵׁ֑ם בְּצַלְאֵ֛ל בֶּן־אוּרִ֥י בֶן־ח֖וּר לְמַטֵּ֥ה יְהוּדָֽה, See, Hashem has called by name, Betzalel son of Uri son of Chur, of the tribe of Yehuda; וַיְמַלֵּ֥א אֹת֖וֹ ר֣וּחַ אֱלֹקים בְּחָכְמָ֛ה בִּתְבוּנָ֥ה וּבְדַ֖עַת וּבְכָל־מְלָאכָֽה – And He filled him with G-dly spirit, with wisdom, with understanding, and with knowledge, and with every craft; וְלַחְשֹׁ֖ב מַֽחֲשָׁבֹ֑ת לַֽעֲשׂ֛ת בַּזָּהָ֥ב וּבַכֶּ֖סֶף וּבַנְּחֽשֶׁת, and to make artistic designs, to work with the gold, with the silver, and with the copper… He gave him the ability to teach, he and Ohaliav ben Achisamach from the tribe of Dan (Shemos 35:30-35).
Who was Chur, the grandfather of Betzalel? Rashi (35:30) tells us: בְּנָהּ שֶׁל מִרְיָם הָיָה, he was the son of Miriam. At the time of the sin of the Golden Calf, Chur rose up to try to stop the people from sinning, and to quell the rebellion. Not only did the people not listen to him, but they killed him in his attempt to halt the travesty (Rashi to Shemos 32:6).
Rabbi A. L. Scheinbaum, in his Peninin on the Torah, writes, “Every time the Torah details Betzalel’s pedigree, it goes back two generations to his grandfather, Chur. Apparently, Chur played an important role in molding Betzalel’s perspective on life. Indeed, it was probably because he had descended from Chur that Betzalel was selected to build the Mishkan. Only a very special individual, one whose devotion to Hashem had been exemplary, would be able to undertake this unprecedented endeavor. Chur was the individual who challenged the Erev Rov, the mixed multitude, when they rebelled against Hashem and organized the formation of the Golden Calf. He was killed for his devotion to G-d. His spirit of mesiras nefesh, self-sacrifice, remained alive in his family. His grandson was prepared to be moser nefesh to build the Mishkan that would atone for the sin of the Golden Calf: the very incident that caused his grandfather’s death. Hashem chose a person whose devotion to Him was so great that it would override even his own personal feelings. This was Chur’s zechus, merit; it was his reward. His grandson would be the architect of the holy Mishkan, the abode where G-d, keviyachol, would dwell.
“In Shemos 34:7, the Torah tells us that Hashem is ‘notzer chessed l’alafim – Hashem preserves deeds of kindness for thousands of generations.’ Rabbi S. R. Hirsch notes that the word ‘notzer’ also means ‘creates’ or ‘causes to blossom.’ Thus, the expression ‘notzer chessed’ can be a reference to Hashem’s benevolence. He allows an act of chessed which we perform to become a seed of chessed that germinates, grows and blossoms, bringing forth salvation at a later time. Our acts of kindness do not comprise an isolated entity that ends when they are completed. No, at times they catalyze deliverance and happiness for the individual who has performed the act of kindness. However, situations also occur in which the reward is manifest at a later time, even generations later, for a descendant.
“This is what happened with Chur. He acted purely for the sake of Heaven. His grandson shared in his reward. The seed of mesiras nefesh was planted. רְא֛וּ קָרָ֥א ה’ בְּשֵׁ֑ם בְּצַלְאֵ֛ל בֶּן־אוּרִ֥י בֶן־ח֖וּר – Chur’s mesiras nefesh sprouted and blossomed in a grandson who was sanctified by Hashem’s name, and chosen by G-d to build His dwelling place here on earth” (Peninim on the Torah, Eleventh Series, p.156-157).
Chur was wholly and solely devoted to Hashem, and died in the sanctification of G-d’s Name. In his merit, his grandson Betzalel was chosen to build the house for Hashem. It was Betzalel, following in the path of his illustrious grandfather, who would live and build in sanctification of G-d’s Name.
Such is the power of the efforts and actions of parents and grandparents, and ultimately, their prayers on behalf of their descendants.
Of his path from an American teen who was born, raised, and public-school educated in Pittsburgh, PA, to Torah giant, grandson-in-law of Rav Boruch Ber Leibowitz zt’l, and Rosh Yeshiva in Yerushalayim, Ha’Rav Yitzchok Scheiner zt’l (1922-2021, Rosh Yeshiva Yeshivas Kaminetz, Jerusalem) related that though he was ‘supposed to’ continue his path of secular education: “But that wasn’t the end. I did go to yeshiva. You see, my mother, aleha hashalom, shed rivers of tears when she lit the Shabbos candles on Friday night. And the Chazon Ish was once asked how it was possible that people who grew up in kibbutzim where there was not even a ray of Torah became baalei teshuva. How does it happen? ‘A mother’s tears are never in vain,’ the Chazon Ish replied. ‘A mother’s tears bore through the steel mountains until they arrive at the Kisei HaKavod (Heavenly Throne of Glory). Sometimes it takes them a year, and sometimes it takes a generation, and sometimes it takes them three generations, but they always arrive in the end. And when they arrive, HKB”H answers the prayers of the mother or the bubbe…’
“I’m a ben yachid, an only son” Rav Scheiner continued. “My mother saw what was going on all around us. The boys didn’t say kiddush anymore. They stopped going to Shul. If you don’t go to Shul, you can’t say Kaddish, and if you marry a non-Jew they you won’t say Kaddish. So my mother shed rivers of tears and pleaded with HKB”H: ‘Ribbono shel olam, helf mir mein kind zol bleiben a Yid! Please help that my child should remain a Jew!’ My mother’s prayers eventually reached the right place, and after one semester at Pitt, Rav Avrohom Bender z’l took me with him to learn in yeshiva in New York” (The Jewish Home, 2/10/22, p.74-75).
In the master craftsman of the Mishkan, Betzalel ben Uri ben Chur, we have not only an artist and architect, we have a lesson in the power of mesorah. The positive actions of a parent and grandparent will ultimately bear fruits in their descendants. For Hashem is a ‘notzer chessed’, as Rav Hirsch teaches: “He allows an act of chessed which we perform to become a seed of chessed that germinates, grows and blossoms, bringing forth salvation at a later time.”
May we always merit to see the fruits of our avodas Hashem for us, our children and our children’s children.
בברכת בשורות טובות ושבת שלום,