ויאמר משה אל בני ישראל ראו קרא ה' בשם בצלאל בן אורי בן חור למטה יהודה.
“And Moshe said to the Jewish people: ‘Look, Hashem called the name of Betzalel, the son of Uri, the son of Chur, from the tribe of Yehudah.’” (Shemos 35:30)
Betzalel ben Uri, a grandson of Chur, was chosen to oversee the construction of the Mishkan. The Torah already mentions previously that Betzalel will be designated for this important task, so this verse seems repetitious. However, when interpreted homiletically, an insightful message emerges from these words, encouraging us in our quest to serve Hashem.
The name Betzalel literally means “in the shadow of G-d,” and the word Chur means a hole. The word used for “tribe – mateh” can also mean “low,” and the word Yehudah means to praise.
The Rebbe Reb Shmelke zt”l gave the following interpretation: A person should remember that his physical body is a shadow of G-dliness, since it encloses the Divine soul. Our neshama is pure and holy, but it is shrouded with a body, which prevents the inner light of the neshama from shining through, much like a shadow blocks the light of the sun. But Hashem desires our closeness, so He creates a chur – a special opening, underneath His Throne of Glory, through which we can enter His presence.
The story of King Menashe is well known. Although he was a great sinner and stooped so low that he actually placed an idol in the Sanctuary, Hashem created a special opening, a chur, underneath His Throne of Glory, to accept Menashe’s prayers when he was in distress. If Hashem in His great love for every single Jew was willing to do this for the great sinner Menashe, He certainly creates an opening for every single Jew who wishes to come close to Him.
So although we are “Betzalel – in the shadow of G-d,” in a physical body that prevents our neshama’s light from shining through, Hashem creates for every one of us a special “chur – opening,” to accept our prayers and bring us close. Even if we are “low” and distanced from Hashem, through this opening Hashem will shine His light into us and raise us to the level of “Yehudah – praising Hashem from the depths of our souls.”
The yetzer hara tries to prevent us from dispelling this shadow that overcasts our G-dliness. The holy Baal Shem Tov and his disciples have taught us how we can overcome the power of the yetzer hara. When a group of Jews gather in order to praise Hashem, especially if they gather on Shabbos, they have the ability to overthrow the yetzer hara together. When a group of Jews unite to serve Hashem together, their collective spiritual power is very strong.
At the beginning of this sidra, the Torah discusses the obligation to observe Shabbos: “And Moshe gathered the entire congregation of the Jewish people and told them, ‘These are the things that Hashem commanded us to do.’” The commentators ask why the verse uses the word “to do,” when in fact the Torah is discussing the things that may not be done on Shabbos. The verse should have said, “Hashem commanded that you don’t do.”
Moshe was planning to instruct the Jewish people about the many mitzvos that we are required to do, not just the negative commandments that pertain to keeping Shabbos. But Moshe foresaw the difficulties involved due to the yetzer hara’s relentless attempts to undermine our closeness with Hashem. He therefore “gathered the entire congregation,” in order to teach the Jewish people that when they want to be able to do the mitzvos of Hashem, they should make sure to stick together. If they will be gathered as one congregation, they will benefit greatly, as the next verse teaches: “And the seventh day shall be holy for you.” This holy day will be “for you” – for your benefit. Just as we all understand that our bodies have needs and require food, water and rest; so too, our souls have needs. Shabbos is the day that the needs of the neshama are fulfilled, which is why Shabbos is a day that is holy “for you” – for every one of us.
The month of Nissan is a very special month. We know that Elul stands for “Ani l’dodi v’dodi li – I am for my Beloved and my Beloved is for me.” These words express the great love between the Jewish people and Hashem, who share a special close bond together. As soon as we turn to Hashem with repentance, He turns to us and accepts us lovingly.
The month of Nissan is even greater than Elul, because during yetzias Mitzrayim Hashem did not wait for us to turn to Him first. Even though the Jewish people were at the 49th gate of impurity, Hashem pulled them out of Egypt. In essence, in the month of Nissan we saw the fulfillment of ani l’dodi v’dodi li the other way around: our great Beloved, Hashem, showed His closeness to us before we showed our closeness to Him.
The holy Shinover Rav zt”l would say that Hachodesh means to renew. On Shabbos Hachodesh we can all renew ourselves, regardless of who we are and where we stand. As long as there is life there is always hope of becoming better, of becoming a new person who serves Hashem faithfully at all times.