Rav Yisrael Krengel
Former Rosh Kollel Johannesburg (2002-3)
The beginning of the Parsha discusses the details of building and lighting the Menorah in the Mishkan. The verse (Bamidbar 8:4) states, “These are the instructions for constructing the Menorah…like the vision Hashem showed Moshe, so did he make the Menorah.” Who is it referring to when it says he made the Menorah? One would assume it is Moshe himself. The Targum Yonatan, however, says the verse is referring to Betzalel, the artist who created the Mishkan. Why does TY feel the need to highlight that although Moshe was the one who saw Hashem’s vision of the Menora, it was Betzalel who actually made it?
A magnificent Midrash (Tanchuma – Behaalotcha 6) sheds light on the issue:
“Rabi Levy the son of Rebi said: Hashem explained to Moshe how to make the Menorah. However, it was too difficult for him to grasp. Moshe came back to Hashem a second time, and Hashem actually showed him how to go about it, but again it was too hard for him. Hashem then created an image of the Menora out of fire and showed it to Moshe, but Moshe still could not understand how to implement the vision. Finally, Hashem told Moshe to go to Betzalel who would know how to make it. Moshe went to Betzalel, who created it on the spot. Moshe was shocked. How could you, Betzalel, who never saw the image and who received no instruction from Hashem, create what I could not grasp?”
How can it be that Betzalel could outshine Moshe, especially in light of the end of the Parsha, when Hashem defends Moshe’s greatness against Miriam and Aharon’s slander, saying to them (12:7-8): “Moshe is my most trustworthy servant, he alone is the one I speak to directly.”?
I believe the deeper message of this Midrash is the supreme importance of every individual’s tafkid, personal mission, and the fulfillment of it by them alone. Moshe was the greatest of all prophets, which is why the vision was revealed to him. However, it took the artistic creativity of Betzalel to make the Menorah a reality.
The idea of tafkid has been discussed by numerous sources throughout the ages. The Sefat Emet (Korach 5647) quotes his grandfather, the Chidushei HaRim, on Pirkei Avot (1:14); “ ‘If I am not for myself, who will be for me?’ That is to say, each person is created to enrich, fix and complete the world in a way that no one else can, both in terms of their unique neshama and the unique time in which they live.”
Rav Kook in his commentary on tefilla (Olat ReIyah, Yom Kippur page 356) further develops this idea based on the tefilla of Yom Kippur : “ ‘My G-d, before I was created I was not worthy to be created, and now that I have been created, it is as if I had not been created.’ From the beginning of time until I came into being, there was no need for my existence. Because if there was a specific need for what I could contribute I would have existed. The precise moment of my creation is the moment when I am needed to fulfill my purpose and thereby complete all that exists. And now that I have been created, had I really succeeded in channeling all of my deeds for the purpose of my creation, I would be worthy of having been created, but since I have not succeeded in this, I am no more worthy of having been created than before.”
Rav Soloveitchik expounds upon this concept of Tafkid at great length (Yemei Zikaron pages 9-27), and explains it in terms of the idea of shlichut, that we are emissaries of Hashem in this world. He uses Moshe as a fundamental example of this, when Hashem instructs him at the Sneh (Burning Bush) in Shemot 3:10: “And now go, and I willsend you to Pharaoh, and you shall take My people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.” The Rav felt that this principle of being sent by Hashem applies not only to Moshe Rabbeinu, but to each and every Jew. He says as follows: “The fact that a person is born in a specific time period and in a particular place, can only be fully understood if we accept the essential idea that man is sent there by Hashem. Hashem and His Providence knows when and how the individual, with all of his shortcomings and strengths that are imbued within his soul, will be able to fulfill his mission on earth. He knows which circumstances, conditions and which society will allow him to maximize his potential.”
The Rav makes several observations about being Hashem’s agent :
1) Hashem would never send us on a mission that we are incapable of fulfilling,
2) Each person has many different missions to fulfill in his lifetime.
3) It is a lifelong process that accompanies us at every moment throughout our lives.
4) Hashem is our partner. He does not send us off alone. He escorts and supports us the entire distance.
5) No person can ever fulfill his mission completely. It is never-ending. There is always more to do.
6) No one can ever say their shlichut is more important than any others, since we are judged by our efforts, not our accomplishments.
Based on the above, we can understand how Betzalel’s mission was of equal importance to Moshe’s, and how we needed both to bring the Mishkan into the world. May we all be zocheh to fulfill our mission on earth and thereby help to build the Beit HaMikdash speedily in our days. Amen.