Vayakel: Bezalel as Artist and Educator

 In this week''s reading Moses introduces the people to Bezalel – the master artist and constuctor of the Mishkan, the Tabernacle. As with much of the content of the parsha this is almost a word for word repetition of last week''s text. There it is God who introduces Bezalel to Moses. Both introductions are essentially a three-verse long run-on sentence ennumerating Bezalel''s divinely endowed gifts. They tell of his talents of working with silver, gold, brass, stones, wood. Yet there is one difference between the two; one addition to this week''s telling that was not in the last. Here Moses adds a fourth verse which introduces another type of skill altogether. He says that God gave Bezalel the ability “l''horot” – to teach, to instruct. Suddenly, amidst all of these technical skills Moses brings in the craft of educating others in how to create.
And let''s not forget, the people have just emerged from their most monsterous creation ever, the Golden Calf. They are admonished, repentant, broken. One might have thought that their confidence in their ability to create anything worthwhile would have been snuffed out with the calf. And yet, in spite of, or perhaps because of it, they are moved – and moved mightily – to create offerings, and to re-create themselves.
The creative impulse and act is essentially therapeutic for the people. They are healed from the trauma of the calf with the creation of the Mishkan. Bezalel stands as a master teacher in his ability to empower others to their highest creative selves. And in this he also stands as a healer, able to bring healing through empowerment. It is when our leaders have a heartfelt urge to teach, to nurture the growth of others, to guide, to share, to empower...that sacred space is materialized in our midst.
The poem below shares Bezalel''s instructions to a young artist. He teaches not external, manual technique but internal, spiritual technique. For the text is clear, his skills are divinely-implanted. He thus instructs others to become creators by connecting to and shadowing the ultimate Creator.
The exercise for this week – List out 3 of your most divinely-endowed skills. How can you teach one of them to someone else?
Letter to a Young Artist
Though knowledge may be taught
Wisdom must be mined
and a thousand-seasons of advice
can be lost in the gloss
of a single self-sought in-sight
The best I can teach you
is to seek Source within.
voice granted
still, small
and thin.
So inquire and see,
where is this mishkan constructed
in me?
Where are you embroidered,
where garbed in argaman?
Where are you hammered,
where are you spun?
What is the silver that you alone smith?
What gold is burrowed
in your fault-lines
and rifts?
Your life,
right now
is risen-sap
and skeleton
The sole material
resilient to time and
small quakes of defeats.
Your internal compass
is the one text
I compel you to read.
Do not be distracted by task and materials.
Technique is irrelevant
when you''re working with miracles.
YOU yourself are the fiberous
flesh of the tent
instructions for construction
engraved on your skin
YOU are the blueprint for building
-- unfurl!
The study of self
is the map to the world
So heed the mentor of inner maji
who shutters forth in dreams
- whose instructions are embedded
and spelled out in reams
of data from the
droning mundane of your days
Raised up,
encoded in skin,
limb and name.
It all depends on God
Remember that
And you’ll never lack for applause
….for the thunder herself will provide
And the tongues of trees
Will sound the treble of your best critique
And as for vocation
that path will be gilded
with bow to the Spirit
not boon to the self.
And you will know your own name
by hearing it called
from God’s mouth
and none else.
And when the final test comes
and you spin gold out of straw
credit but the Instructor
who endowed it all.