The Temple Institute: Temple Talk: I Adar 18, 5771/February 22, 2011

"...the spirit of G-d, with wisdom, with insight, and with knowledge, and all manner of craftsmanship..."
(Exodus 35:31)

Of the 613 commandments listed in Torah, only the building of the Tabernacle, the prototype for the Holy Temple, is described in such great length and in such great detail. Indeed, the attention given the tabernacle is unparalleled. Shabbat is every bit as essential and complex a commandment as the commandment to build the Tabernacle Sanctuary - the Mishkan - yet the details as to how the commandment to remember and keep the Shabbat is to be performed are not included in the words of the written Torah. In fact, every commandment, whether great or small, is of equal significance in the eyes of Torah. So why is so much of Torah dedicated to the building and assembling of the Tabernacle? In light of the opinion of many of our sages that all of the different aspects of the Tabernacle structure and its vessels are but components of a single commandment, "And they shall build for Me a Sanctuary," (Exodus 25:8) it is no less than extraordinary that the book of Exodus, the same book that features the ten plagues and the midnight departure from Egypt, the crossing of the Sea of Reeds, the miracle of the manna, and the revelation and receiving of Torah at Mount Sinai, nevertheless devotes more verses to the building of the Tabernacle than to any of these other milestones which so describe and define the history and experience of Israel to this day.

Could it be that G-d wanted to make sure, not only that the nation of Israel would perform this commandment to build a Sanctuary, but that Torah would also preserve an incontrovertible historical record of the effort? No, not to convince the skeptical nations one day that Israel did, indeed, build the desert Sanctuary, but to convince the nation of Israel, itself, that it once did, indeed, build the Tabernacle, just as G-d desired that they do!

G-d Himself, it would seem, was so "anxious" that the dwelling place that He desired for His Divine Presence on this earth be completed, that He "personally" named Betzalel, no doubt Israel's finest master craftsman to lead and oversee the effort. (ibid 35:30) Torah even describes the necessary qualifications for the job, basically, Betzalel's CV: "the spirit of G-d, with wisdom, with insight, and with knowledge, and all manner of craftsmanship... " (ibid 35:31) The nature of the building of the Tabernacle and its vessels was so multifaceted, so multi-disciplined, we can safely assume that Betzalel, and his assistant Oholiav, were men of exceptional knowledge and experience. Midrash even ascribes to Betzalel knowledge of the secrets of creation itself!

It is clear from the Torah that G-d, who commanded to Israel, "build for Me a Sanctuary that I may dwell among them," (ibid 25:8) really meant just what He said. He wanted it built, he wanted it built just right, and he wanted it built now! Moshe had a hard time envisioning the shape of the golden Menorah: G-d showed him an image. Moshe didn't know the first thing about building a portable structure that could be disassembled and carried through the desert: G-d chose Betzalel to lead the task. Where would the materials, the gold and silver and bronze, the blue and purple and scarlet threads come form? G-d called upon everyone "whose heart uplifted him... and everyone whose spirit inspired him to generosity" (ibid 35:21) to step forth with the requisite supplies. Who would form Betzalel's work force? G-d called upon every woman and man of a "wise heart" (ibid 35:35) to present themselves before Betzalel and Oholiav, and G-d "put into his [Betzalel's] heart [the ability] to teach" the required skills to the people. When would they find the time to work on the Tabernacle? Torah sandwiches the description of the work of the Tabernacle between mentions of the holy Shabbat, the intention being clear: From sundown at the conclusion of Shabbat to sundown preceding the start of Shabbat six days later, the people would be occupied solely with the construction of the Tabernacle and its vessels. Are there any other questions?

G-d's repeated intervention concerning the building of the Tabernacle is no less extraordinary and no less miraculous than His intervention in bringing Israel out of Egypt, His splitting of the Sea of Reeds, or His revelation at Mount Sinai. And in each of these instances Israel was given its own task to fulfill in order to make manifest G-d's benevolence. So too concerning the Tabernacle: G-d will guarantee the success of the undertaking, but Israel must take it upon itself to accomplish the task!

It would seem that Israel today is daunted by the challenge of the Holy Temple, blinded and paralyzed by its beauty and grandeur, by the scope and depth of all that it embodies and the sweeping change that it will effect for Israel and the nations. "Who are we to build the Holy Temple? We don't know how! We don't know what it involves! We don't understand the instructions! We don't have a Betzalel in our generation!" Torah, with its painstakingly detailed description of every pin and every hook and every bolt and bracket of the Tabernacle, with its intricate description of how to assemble the Tabernacle, what fits inside of what and where every piece is to be placed, provides a resounding response to to these claims: Nonsense!

Not only are all the pertinent details laid out before us in Torah, but we live in an age in which science and technology enable us to research and experiment and discover and arrive at hard conclusions. After all, the Holy Temple isn't rocket science. All that's really required is a "wise heart" and a "generous heart," attributes hard-wired into our very makeup. We left Egypt. We crossed the sea. We stood at Sinai and we have crossed the vast desert of 2000 years of exile to enter again into the land that G-d has promised us. Now it is time to build the Holy Temple!

Tune in to this week's TEMPLE TALK as Rabbi Chaim Richman teams up with his own flesh and blood, Tzi Richman, who shares his unique wisdom and insights. What did Moses have in mind when he made the Children of Israel drink the pulverized gold of the golden calf? Parashat Vayakhel, the penultimate portion of the Book of Exodus, brings us closer to the epicenter of the Torah, on several levels. We've got the plan and it couldn't be made any clearer than it gets in the first verses of this parashahÉ Shabbat and the Tabernacle. That's the whole earth plan to making life count... but yet, post-modern pundits point accusing fingers and shout, "There's no Betzalel today! How could we think of creating Temple vessels?" Yitchak Reuven joins in for the second half of TEMPLE TALK, and together with Rabbi Richman delivers this message, loud and clear: There are amongst us, even today, inspired individuals who meet the Torah's requirements for being a Betzalel... "a wise heart" and "a generous heart."

Complete Show