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WHO IS THIS GUY?

by Gideon Shloush    
Torah from Dixie Staff Writer    

The question arises as to why Betzalel was selected as the chief architect of the mishkan (Tabernacle). Betzalel was just a simple 13-year-old boy from the tribe of Yehuda.

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The question arises as to why Betzalel was selected as the chief architect of the mishkan (Tabernacle). Betzalel was just a simple 13-year-old boy from the tribe of Yehuda. Why wasn't Moses or Aaron or one of their descendants chosen? Perhaps someone with stature or priesthood. But why Betzalel? Who is this guy? Where is he coming from?

Rabbi Meir Simcha, a foremost Torah scholar at the turn of the century (also known as the Meshech Chochmah), explains that the tribe of Yehuda was unique, for they did not hesitate in their decision making process. Rather, they were totally committed towards the pursuit of the will of Hashem. This is best exemplified at the splitting of the Red Sea when the Jewish people were fleeing from the land of Egypt. When the nation of Israel reached the shores of the Red Sea, Nachshon ben Aminadav (who hailed from the tribe of Yehuda) led them into the waters even before they were split. Similarly, Chur, the son of Miriam, (also a native Yehudan) led the demonstration against the erecting of the Golden Calf. These individuals, demonstrating initiative and perseverance, descended from the tribe of Yehuda. Descendants of Yehuda were leaders who were careful not to waste precious time deliberating over all possible consequences in their pursuit of the sanctification of Hashem. They took the first step, the initiative, and the responsibility; Hashem took care of the rest. This was a trait which was prevalent among all the members of their tribe.

Furthermore, the Ramban, one of the leading Torah scholars of the Middle Ages, suggests that Betzalel initially was not the genius architect that he later became, but was rather just another 13-year-old boy from the tribe of Yehuda. However, because he showed initiative and commitment to pursuing the will of Hashem, he was therefore blessed with Chochmah, Binah, Veda'at -- Wisdom, Insight, and Understanding.

Historically, this commitment has been the driving force in our people's passing tests in our quest for survival and perfection. In fact, the very root of the Hebrew word for test, bechinah, is made up of the three Hebrew letters bet, chet, and nun. One might suggest that this corresponds to the first letters of the three leaders mentioned above: Betzalel, Chur, and Nachshon!

At the same time, it is clear that it has been the tribe of Yehuda, the non-deliberators, who have led our people through history -- be it Caleb, King David, King Solomon (please see this week's Haftorah in which King Solomon builds the first Temple), King Chezkiah, or Nechemyah the prophet, all of whom are from the tribe of Yehuda. Even Mordechai (of Purim fame) was from the tribe of Yehuda on his mother's side. All of them were powerful and influential leaders.

When Jacob blessed Yehuda before his death, he said, "Yehuda, atah yoducha achechah -- Yehuda, you will be praised by your brothers (Genesis 49:8)." The Midrash explains this to mean that all Jewish people will call themselves by your name: Yehudim -- Jews.

As Yehudim, and presumable descendants of the tribe of Yehuda, we have this responsibility -- to take initiatives, to step forward and become leaders in our pursuit of the sanctification of Hashem. Yehuda himself showed this trait in that he was the one to save Joseph from death by pulling him out of the pit (Genesis 37:26). Similarly, he stepped forward without hesitation and persuaded his father to allow him to bring Benjamin down to Egypt. (Please see Genesis 43:8-10 for the actual retelling of this episode.)

While most certainly we must think before we act, it is important that we not spend too much time deliberating. Rather, we must evaluate what is expected of us by Hashem and take immediate action. True mesirat nefesh (personal sacrifice), when done in accordance with mitzvah observance, will ultimately be supported by the hand of Hashem.

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Gideon Shloush, a former resident of Atlanta, is presently a rabbinic candidate at Yeshiva University and is pursuing his MBA in International Business at Baruch College in New York.

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