Drash on Parashat Vayakhel
"What’s in a Name?"
Rabbi Gersh Lazarow
The King David School & Etz Chayim Progressive Synagogue
After weeks of instruction and preparation, Parashat Vayakhel finally details the actual building of the Mishkan, or Tabernacle, by the People of Israel, as they wandered in the desert.
In particular, the Parashah opens by introducing us to a man named Bezalel, an anonymous character who we know little about, who was chosen (called by name) to be responsible for the construction of this most sacred of gathering places.
The construction of the Mishkan is undoubtedly a major undertaking by the young Israelite nation. For the last month we have been reading and learning about every possible detail, with Torah leaving almost nothing to question. Interestingly, despite all this detail, the Torah tells us almost nothing about the man responsible for the construction, apart from his name and the fact that he was appointed to complete this massive task.
So who was Bezalel and why was he chosen?
The Tanhuma Vayakhel, the midrash, begins to answer this question by teaching us that a person has three names: one given to their parents; another given to their community; and the third acquired by themselves. The midrash then goes on to say that it was the good name Bezalel acquired for himself that made God choose him to build the tabernacle.
Perhaps the very fact we know so little about him suggests he could have been anyone. It is up to each and every one of us to decide what actions we take and what name we acquire in the eyes of God. Will it be we who are filled “with the spirit of God, in wisdom, in understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship…to devise skilful works… to think thoughts…” (Exodus 35:31-33)?
Despite what popular culture tells us, I believe the Parashah is actually coming to tell us our name and our destiny is neither defined by our inheritance nor our detractors, but rather how we see ourselves. That while there may well be a grand plan, the realisation of its details actually lies in our hands!
I find that message to be very inspiring on a personal level. Choice is a concept I struggle with daily. It is so easy for us to get caught up in negative thinking and be held back by fear of failure, or by the sense that we are set in our ways, that it is too late to change.
But I would like to suggest that Torah’s powerful message here is that we are not only responsible for our actions, but actually capable of deciding who we want to be.
What a refreshing thought…