Rising Sparks

Parsha Ki Tissa Exodus 30:11-34:35

In this portion, two new characters are introduced onto the wilderness scene. Bezalel and Aholiab, skilled craftsmen commissioned with the building of the desert Tabernacle. God tells Moses, “I have called by name Bezalel…And I have filled him with the Spirit of God…indeed I, have appointed with him Oholiab…and I have put wisdom in the hearts of all the gifted artisans.” 

Bezalel (which would’ve been pronounced as “Betzalel” in Hebrew) was from the tribe of Judah. His name means “In the Shadow of the Almighty.” Aholiab (which would’ve been pronounced as “Ohaliav” in Hebrew) was from the tribe of Dan. His name means “Father’s Tent.” I believe it is no coincidence that it was these two, which were selected to be co-supervisors of this important building project.

When the children of Israel traveled through the Desert, the Tribe of Judah would march in front while the Tribe of Dan would bring up the rear. Rashi notes in his commentary that though, “[Oholiab was] of the tribe of Dan, of the lowest of the tribes…yet G?d compared him to Bezalel for the work of the Tabernacle, and [Bezalel] was of the greatest of the tribes (Judah).” Bezalel, from the leading and greatest of the tribes was partnered with Aholiab who came from the last and lowest of the tribes. This was a match made in heaven! I believe God did this to show that everyone from least to greatest, weak to powerful all had a place in the construction and dedication of the Tent of Meeting.

But these chaps weren’t chosen just because they represented opposite ends of the Israelite community. There was something about these two individuals, which set them apart from the rest of six hundred thousand Israelite men. The first place to start would be to look at their names. Biblical names are much more than simply a title for a person to go by. The names found in Biblical literature hint toward a persons fate and fortune. Bezalel, whose name means “In the Shadow of the Almighty” as was aforementioned can be connected to Psalm 91, where it says, “He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.” This Psalm is all about finding refuge in God. God is the “Tabernacle” in which one can find safety and refuge. Aholiab, whose name means “Father’s Tent,” is a reminder of a prophecy found in Isaiah 54. It says, “Enlarge the place of your tent…stretch out the curtains of your dwellings; Lengthen your cords, and strengthen your stakes. For you shall expand to the right and to the left, and your descendants will inherit the nations…” This passage describes the ingathering of the nations into the “Tent of Israel.” What is the tent of Israel? The Tabernacle/House of God.These men’s destinies were in their names; from the time of their baby naming ceremony (circumcision) their names foretold their future to become the builders of God’s House.

The second thing which set these men apart was they were “filled [] with the Spirit of God …and [God] put wisdom in [their] hearts.” The Baal HaTurim made an interesting point about these men. He wrote, “it was a miracle that a people who had been forced to perform basic slave labour for hundreds of years should have produced among themselves artisans capable of performing highly skilled work…” These men were out of the ordinary. The Hebrew slaves had been bricklayers–or in modern terms– construction workers. How did this group know how to intricately work with gold, gems and jewelry? This ragtag band of former-slaves was suddenly commissioned by God to build Him a House; and the Spirit of God came and filled the workmen. God’s Spirit gets excited when men prepare the world to receive Him.

The Spirit of God is given to build the House and Kingdom of God. There is a well-known Bible verse, which comes from the book of Zechariah chapter 4. It says, “This is the word of the Lord…‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the Lord of hosts.” What most people don’t know is that this verse’s context is referring to the construction of the Temple of God.
The phrase “Spirit of God” is specifically mentioned only 5 times in the entire Torah. At creation, Pharaoh recognized it in Joseph, twice it says God filled Bezalel to build the Tabernacle and it came upon Balaam when he blessed the Jewish nation. God’s Spirit comes to create, increase, build and bless. To what end? To bring and build the Kingdom of God “on earth as it is in Heaven.” The Spirit of God is not some magic force or potion for personal miracles, physical healings and fuzzy feelings. It was given to build up and establish the Kingdom of God in this world. This doesn’t mean that the Spirit of God doesn’t heal or work miracles or bring good feelings, it means that the main purpose of God sending His Spirit is for those who receive it to “be witnesses [of] Me (the message of Rabbi Yeshua = the kingdom of God is at hand) in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” 

In fact, before our Master Yeshua instructed His disciples with these words, it says earlier in this same chapter (Acts 1) that He was teaching all about “the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.”It’s written in the Talmud concerning Bezalel’s wisdom, “Bezalel knew how to join the letters with which heaven and earth were created…We see that wisdom, understanding, and knowledge, the qualities with which the heavens and earth were created, are all found in Bezalel.” Bezalel took the knowledge of the creation and used it to create a “home” for God in this world. Now, what does it mean, “Bezalel…join[ed] the letters with which heaven and earth were created?” In Psalm 33 it says, “By the word of the LORD the heavens were made…” God used His “word” to bring the world into existence. In a text called the “Sefer Yetzirah—Book of Formation” (200 BCE-200 CE) we read, “By means of the twenty two letters, by giving them a form and shape, by mixing them and combining them in different ways, God made the soul of all that which has been created and all of that which will be.” 

God used the Aleph-Bet (the Hebrew Alphabet) to bring the world into existence. Armed with this same knowledge Bezalel, the former-slave-bricklayer turned chief-craftsman began construction on humanities house for God within God’s natural environment (home) for man. Rebbe Nachman wrote concerning the idea of Bezalel using the Aleph-Bet to construct the tabernacle, “the letters represent the letters of our prayers, for with our prayers we, too, build the House of God, as in ‘For My House will be called a House of Prayer for all nations. (Isaiah 56:7) The miShKaN (Tabernacle) is built by each ShaKheiN (neighbor) who joins in the communal prayers; his added presence builds an even larger ‘House of God.’” The physical tabernacle obviously represents a Spiritual reality as well. One of those was the idea of the ingathering of all nations and “neighbors” into a Spiritual “House of God.” It is only after people are spiritually prepared and ready that God’s physical presence = God’s House = the Holy Temple can come to earth. If people cannot join together into a Spiritual “House of Prayer for all nations” why would /should we expect God’s physical presence to dwell on earth with mankind?

I love the idea of Jewish communal prayer. Only in Israel have I repeatedly been asked the question “Have you prayed today?” If not then the next question (if one is Jewish) is “Could you join us?” (For Jewish communal prayers it isnecessary to have at least a Minyan = 10 Jewish men). Prayer is what prepares us spiritually to bring the physical world around us to a place worthy of receiving God’s Divine Presence. We must recognize, even as Bezalel had to, that, in the words of Dennis Prager, “According to the Torah, the artist, at least in this case, is not the source of the creative vision, but a vehicle for implementing the vision of the Creator.” We were not put on earth to make “a name for ourselves.” We were put here to bring about the Creator’s vision of redemption and restoration to the entire Universe. This is why according to Dennis Prager, “In Hebrew, the name Bezalel means ‘in the shadow of God.’ The Torah would seem to be teaching that ideally, artists should see themselves as working in the shadow of God.” We dwell under “the Shadow of the Almighty.” 

We must remember that we are not the Son, Sun, or Star. We are like the moon; we reflect the light of God into the world around us. In this portion we read of Moses’ glistening face from his encounter with the light of God on “Har Sinai—Mount Sinai.” But before I write anymore about Moses’ glowing face there is a glaring blemish within this beautiful portion, which must be addressed. In this portion we read about the “Egel Ma’asecha—Molded Calf.” The people have become restless by Moses’ delay on Mount Sinai. They are “clearly lost without Moses, [and] desperate to regain a sense of security.” (Dennis Prager’s Exodus Commentary) They tell Aaron (Moses’ brother),“Come, make us gods that shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.”After hearing the desire of the people, Aaron attempts to slow this idolatrous process down by telling the people they must give up their jewelry, next Aaron again puts things off by saying, “Tomorrow is a feast.” 

However, the people are all in to accomplish what they have set their minds to do. The next verse tells us, “Then they rose early on the next day…” These idolatrous Israelites were excited for the next morning; they didn’t waste a moment of time. The word “early,” tells us how zealous these people were for their idol.
But I want to go back to when Aaron asks for the Israelites jewelry. Aaron asked for a very specific item of jewelry. He asked for “the golden earrings which are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters…” Was this by accident? I don’t think so! In Mark 12, our Master Yeshua was asked, “What commandment is the foremost of all?” What was His reply? He began His reply with the words, “Shema Yisrael Hashem Elokeinu Hashem Echad—Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.” A phrase found in Deuteronomy 6, which has become a sort of creed for the Jewish people (though some would say Judaism is a religion of deed not creed*) and the last words on the lips of a dying Jew was what our Master Yeshua determined as the greatest of all the commands found in the Torah.

The idolatrous worshipers who where among the Jewish people—instead of turning their ear to God’s Word, gave up their earrings for a god in their own image…the image of a beast. When people throw off the commands of God, it leads to the horrendous and the heinous. The Word of God instructs humanity as an instruction manual would, it tells us what people should do in order to function at full capacity. Instead of taking their earrings for the building of an idol, the Israelites should have brought their ears into submission of God’s authority.

Which leads me to Moses’ glistening face. We read that, “Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone while he talked with [God]. So when Aaron and all the children of Israel saw Moses, behold, the skin of his face shone, and they were afraid to come near him.” Moses was glowing from his Mountaintop experience. The people saw this phenomenon and were scared to even approach him. Remember earlier how I wrote that we ought to be “moons” reflecting God’s light in to the world? Moses radiated God’s light into the world, but as John 1 puts it, “the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.” The darkness cannot grasp or even begin to understand the all powerful, all consuming, infinite light of God. Moses was illuminated by his experience with God. His glowing face should be the normal for us as believers. May we all merit to radiate the bright light of God into the world, and as we do, may the entire world make the transformation “out of darkness into His marvelous light.”

Grace and Peace from God’s Bondservant,
Shabbat Shalom,
Samuel
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