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    B’tzalel & the builders – P’kudei

    The master artisan of the Tabernacle was B’tzalel. He had two great qualifications for the task.

    Bezalel, by James Tissot, c. 1896

    Technically he was highly trained. Rashi points out that Moses had such faith in B’tzalel’s judgment that it was hardly necessary to spell out every little detail: B’tzalel’s expert ability and instinct were so reliable that he knew what to do even without explicit instructions.

    His second area of expertise was emotional. He felt such love for the task that it was far more than just another piece of work.

    Parashat Vayakhel tells us he was accompanied and supported by a team of “men and women who were generous of heart” (Ex. 35:22). For them the task was not measured in cubits but in commandments: King Solomon says in Mishlei 10:8, “The wise-hearted seek mitzvot“.

    How well I remember the late Frederick Engel, a synagogue lay leader with whom I worked in the old Bayswater Synagogue in London in the 1960’s. When the historic Shule building needed repair and repainting he reminded me, and everybody, that we were entrusted with the holy task of providing Mishkan HaShem, “A dwelling-place of the Lord”. Parashat P’kudei could have been written for Frederick Engel.

    The P’sikta d’Rav Kahana reminds us that the Divine Presence is not limited to any one building, however impressive it might be – Isaiah quite rightly insists that God’s Holy Presence fills the whole earth. Nonetheless He wishes His creatures to set as a particular meeting place for His encounter with human beings.

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