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Shabbat Parashat Pekudei| 5764

Creative Obedience

Parashat Vayakhel reports, detail by detail, how the workers of the “mishkan project” followed the precise instructions for its construction. Yet the Torah does not use the words, “as Hashem commanded Moshe.” In Pekudei, describing the making of the kohanim’s garments, the Torah mentions in section after section those very words. Why is there a difference?
 The second pasuk of our parasha (Shemot 38:22) tells that Betzalel did “all that Hashem commanded Moshe.” Rashi picks up on the unnecessarily inclusive word “all,” and cites Chazal that Betzalel followed all of the instructions that Hashem gave to Moshe, including a notable one that Moshe had not relayed to him. Namely, Betzalel questioned the logic of building the mishkan’s vessels before building the structure, and Moshe praised him for anticipating that which Hashem had told Moshe. The Ramban says that this explains why Vayakhel does not mention that Betzalel followed the instructions, because he actually acted differently from what he was originally told (with permission). Only in reference to the kohanim’s garment (in Pekudei) were his actions a direct result of Hashem’s instructions that Moshe relayed to him. (This idea may also be hinted to do by the choice of the word “ka’asher” (as), as opposed to “asher” (that)).
 Why did things work out that Moshe did not tell Betzalel the right thing, which Betzalel then had to figure out himself? The gemara (Ketubot 5a) refers to the mishkan/mikdash as “the work of man’s hands,” and says that it is even greater than Hashem’s creation of the world. Certainly, the engineering and artistic work related to the mishkan cannot be mentioned in the same breath with the creation of the entire universe. In fact “the work of man’s hands” probably does not refer to handiwork at all, but to the initiative and spiritual effort involved. Is initiative important?
 On one hand, man has no right to make up his own blueprint for the service of Hashem and the construction of His temple (see Divrei Hayamim I 28:19). On the other hand, the more creativity man puts into the service of Hashem and sacred projects such as the mishkan, the greater his part in the final result. In our parasha, we have a mix which enables the best of both worlds. Betzalel did not close his mind when receiving the commandments, but searched to do things in the best possible way. On the other hand, he had to check with Moshe to see if his ideas fit into the Divine plan, which they did. The achievement of his “creative obedience” enabled the mishkan to be not only a spiritual venue for mankind, but the great “work of man’s hands” that it was.
 We sometimes feel sandwiched between the approach that we must be obedient in a closed-minded manner and the approach that man knows best what is good and worthwhile and need not heed the Divine word (Heaven forbid). The challenge is to be creative in this world and yet make sure that our creativity is within the confines of “all that Hashem commanded Moshe.”
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This edition of Hemdat Yamim is
dedicated to the memory of R’ Meir  ben
Yechezkel Shraga Brachfeld o.b.m.

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