Vayakhel/Pekudei – A Teachable Moment
There was no tender, no submissions of bids, for the task of building the Mishkan. God’s choice for chief architect and supervisor of the build, as relayed by Moses, was Bezalel. Along with his assistant Oholiav, Bezalel managed and oversaw every aspect of the construction and work. It was a massive responsibility, but the Torah relates that Bezalel was endowed accordingly with the wisdom and skills to carry out this task to perfection. “And he filled him with a spirit of God, in wisdom, in understanding and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship. And to devise plans, to work with gold, silver and brass. And in cutting stones for settings and in carving of wood, to do all skilled crafts.” (Exodus 35:31-33)
Bezalel was made a genius overnight, a true master of all trades. He was sensitive to the chemistry of the different alloys, and he knew how to refine, cast and coat the metals in accordance with their unique properties. He achieved instantaneously the expert’s gentle touch of woodworking that normally comes only to the best craftsman and only after many years of experience. He had the skills of the finest gemologist and the craftsmanship of the greatest of textile workers. He also had the broad perspective to administer the building and manage the workforce with harmony.
On top of all these skills Bezalel and Oholiav were given one more expertise, the ability to teach these skills to others. “And to instruct He placed in his heart, he and Oholiav son of Achisamach from the tribe of Dan.” (ibid 34)
The Or Hachaim, an 18th century scholar and kabbalist, points out that even the wisest and most skilled of craftspeople are not always capable of teaching their crafts to others. Teaching demands a very different skill set, and many experts of a particular science or craft a