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Vayakhel-Pikudei, Shabbos Parah: Using All Our Talents For Hashem

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 in the name of Betzalel, the son of Uri the son of Chur of the tribe of Yehuda.’”  (Shemos 35:30)

Why does Moshe tell the Jewish people to “look”?  What was there to look at?  He should have asked them to listen to what he was saying.

It is also interesting that we do not find anywhere in the Torah how Hashem spoke to Betzalel directly. The only other mention of his appointment to construct the Mishkan is found in Parshas Ki Sisa, where the verse again uses the word “look”, as Hashem said to Moshe:  “Look, I called in the  name of Betzalel the son of Uri the son of Chur of the tribe of Yehudah.”   Once again, why does the verse use the word “look,” and where to we find that Hashem actually spoke to him?

This week was the yartzeit of the great and holy tzaddik, Rebbe Elimelech of Lizensk. His brother Rebbe Zusha used to say: “When the time will come for me to stand before the Heavenly Judge, no one will demand of me why I wasn’t like my brother Meilich, because Meilich is Meilich, and Zusha is Zusha.   What I will be charged with, is why I wasn’t the very best that Zusha could have been!”

Hashem created each and every person with a unique personality and set of abilities.   Everyone must seek to bring glory to Hashem through his own abilities and means, through his own intellect and talents.  Someone who is wise in Torah should not hold it all to himself, but he shall seek to teach others Torah. Someone who has the talent to teach others should use his talent for Hashem.  Someone who has wealth should use his money for Hashem, and someone who is skilled in a specific profession should make use of his skill for Hashem.  Everyone should ask himself: In what area do I excel? What am I good at? And after discovering the answer, he should utilize his strong points in order to benefit others and serve Hashem.

This is what Rebbe Zusha meant when he said that he wasn’t Meilich.  He was saying that he doesn’t have the same set of talents and capabilities as his brother.   Rather than trying to imitate his brother’s greatness, he should focus on his own strengths and use them for Hashem, because that is what is expected of him.

This is what Hashem was telling Moshe. He didn’t say, “Listen, I called upon Betzalel,” because Hashem never even spoke directly to Betzalel.  Hashem said: “Look – I called upon Betzalel.”  Just look at his skill, look at his capabilities and you will see from that that I called upon him to build the Mishkan.  Betzalel was “filled with the spirit of G-d, with wisdom and understanding and knowledge in all skills, to plan how to create things from gold, silver and copper.”  Betzalel was young, merely 12 years old, but he possessed unique skills and was able to design beautiful items from wood and precious metals.  And because Hashem gave him those skills, it was plainly obvious that he was chosen to build the Mishkan.  There was no need to hear Hashem’s command; it was enough to see his talents and capabilities to understand that he was chosen for this purpose.

Our sages tell us (Berachos 55a):  “Betzalel knew Hashem.”   Betzalel was so wise that he was able to connect the Hebrew letters in the same way that Hashem connected them to create the world.  Betzalel realized that he had great skills, so he tried to use them for Hashem.  He perfected and enhanced his skills for this purpose to such an extent that he was able to discover the secrets of creation!  He wasn’t satisfied with using his skills for mundane purposes, and in his quest to use them for higher purposes he ultimately was able to discover the deepest secrets of the world.

This was the lesson that Moshe imparted to the Jewish people. “Look,” he said, “Hashem called in the name of Betzalel.”   Just look at Betzalel and see how he uses all of his skills and talents for Hashem. The Torah tells us that Betzalel was able to “think thoughts.”  On the surface, it means that he was able to plan out the details of construction, but on a deeper level it means that Betzalel had such power of thought that he was able to actually get things done just by planning it out.  His thoughts were so deep that they had a power of its own, causing things to happen.

There is a story about the great Rebbe Elimelech that shows the power of making things happen through focused thought.  Rebbe Elimelech once sat at a meal with his disciples. When the soup was served, the Rebbe, who seemed to be deep in thought, suddenly took a spoonful of soup and spilled it onto the table. The disciples couldn’t understand why the Rebbe did this.  One of the disciples who were present was Rebbe Mendel of Rimonov.  When he saw what the Rebbe did, he jumped up in agitation and cried:  “Rebbe, they will imprison us!”  Now the disciples were truly baffled.  Why did Reb Mendel think that they would be arrested for spilling some soup?

Rebbe Elimelech explained to his disciples what had happened.  The Emperor Franz Joseph who ruled Galicia and Austria was incited by his advisors to issue a harsh decree against the Jewish people.  The royal scribe sat down and wrote up the decree according to the emperor’s instructions and then presented it to the emperor for his signature.  The emperor signed the document and then wanted to pour some fine sand onto the document to dry the ink, as was done in those days.  However, just at that moment, Rebbe Elimelech, whose thoughts were with the emperor in Austria, spilled some of his soup onto the table.  By doing so, he caused the emperor to mistakenly take the bottle of ink instead of the bottle of fine sand, and he spilled it all over the document!  The entire document was ruined.  When the emperor saw this, he took this as a sign that the decree wasn’t meant to be issued, and he decided to cancel the decree.  Reb Mendel in his greatness was aware of what the Rebbe was really doing by spilling his soup.  He was so caught up with what was happening that for a moment he forgot that the emperor couldn’t see them, and he therefore expressed his fear that they would be imprisoned for ruining the royal document.

Betzalel had such power of thought and he was able to create things just by thinking them.

There is another story about Rebbe Elimelech that brings this point home.  The Zoslover Chazzan, who was a cantor in the court of the Baal Shem Tov, once came to visit Rebbe Elimelech.  Rebbe Elimelech asked him to tell him something he personally witnessed at the Baal Shem Tov.  The Chazzan replied: “The Baal Shem Tov once said that when he sees a vessel, he doesn’t just see a vessel but he actually sees the face of the craftsman who created it.”  Rebbe Elimelech commented, “That’s not such a great wonder; I can see that too.”   So the Chazzan said: “The Baal Shem Tov didn’t just see the face of the craftsman, but he was able to hear the words he said while working on the vessel.”  Again Rebbe Elimelech commented that he can hear that too.  So the Chazzan said: “Not only could the Baal Shem Tov hear what the craftsman said, but he was also able to discern every thought that he had while working on the vessel.”  To this Rebbe Elimelech exclaimed: “That’s a true wonder!”

Betzalel was able to “think thoughts.”  He was able to discern the true thoughts and intentions of the donors who gave their gold and silver for the Mishkan, and use them accordingly.  There were so many donations and so many things to be made from them, yet Betzalel was able to use every piece of precious metal according to the true intentions of its donor.  Those who had pure intentions while donating their gold were privileged to have their gold used for the holy Ark or the Altar. Those who had lesser intentions, ended up donating their gold for minor parts of the Mishkan.

May the great merit of the tzaddik Rebbe Elimelech protect all of us.  Rebbe Elimelech in his greatness knew exactly why he was created and what Hashem expected of him, and he used it completely to serve Hashem.  In his merit, may we also be able to achieve our potential and use our talents and capabilities for Hashem.  Just as Betzalel used all of his talents and skills for Hashem, and Rebbe Elimelech did the same, so may we use our strengths to bring glory to Hashem’s Name.  In this merit, may we soon be zoche to the final Redemption, Amein.

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