It had to come as gifts from the heart, the gold the silver, the copper, the sky-blue, dark red and crimson wool, the twined linen, and the skins for the coverings, the acacia wood, the spices and the precious stones, all of it given of their own free will, as an offering.
For only then would it be truly beautiful, endowed with a spark, as if illuminated from within with the joy of giving. And they came with their arms full bringing all that was needed to make the Tabernacle, a sanctuary wherein God would dwell.
And they came, the men and the women, with bracelets, rings, and ornaments, the wool and the red-dyed ram skins, and the precious metals to realize all the particulars that God had described.
Those who embraced the task, whose talent in their hands had been slumbering all those long years in exile, felt their ﬁngers come alive, tingle and ache with desire, with a passion to create, to take these materials and begin the ﬁne work, to spin and weave, to sew and embroider, to mold and carve, to cut and hammer and engrave all they had been commanded to make.
Day and night the work ﬂew from their hands, as they created the mishkan from the words, as He had created the universe, and they delighted in their work knowing it was good.
It was Bezalel, of the tribe of Judah whom God chose to supervise the grand design, and “He ﬁlled him,” as it is written, “with Godly spirit, with wisdom, insight, and knowledge, and with every craft.”
Together with Ohaliab, of the tribe of Dan they would teach all the wise-hearted, the weavers and the artisans who brought their enthusiasm to fulﬁll the work that would realize God’s plan.
Is it the mishkan, the ultimate paradigm of beauty that informs those designs that make us stop and wonder, and with their loveliness take our breath away? Was that vision of the mishkan, so vivid that we heard the colors, the glorious designs in all their sublime harmonies, as at Sinai we had seen the words of the commandments in the desert air? Does all that dazzled us then – the gold menorah, the ark and the alters, the cherubs woven into brocaded tapestries – still linger in our memory from our being there? It is here in Vayakhel we meet Bezalel, the archetype for every artist, the spark of whose soul ignites our own because we feel in the work the breath of life.
Where, but in the heart, is that ineffable gift, compelled to labor long and late, in the service of beauty and truth, composing from the materials that are given, another vision of the universe? Where, but in the heart that is wise, is that yearning to reveal a glimpse of the Divine, and that longing to sing a new song to the glory of God.
The poet divides her time between Jerusalem and Bar Harbor, Maine, where she runs a kosher bed-and-breakfast with her daughters.
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