26.6. Bezalel’s and Oholiab’s Calling (31:1-11)

(1) The Lord spoke to Moses:

(2) See, I have singled out by name Bezalel son of Uri son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah.

(3) I have endowed him with a divine spirit of skill, ability, and knowledge in every kind of craft;

(4) to make designs for work in gold, silver, and copper,

(5) to cut stones for setting and to carve wood — to work in every kind of craft.

(6) Moreover, I have assigned to him Oholiab son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan; and I have also granted skill to all who are skillful, that they may make everything that I have commanded you:

(7) the Tent of Meeting, the Ark for the Pact and the cover upon it, and all the furnishings of the Tent;

(8) the table and its utensils, the pure lampstand and all its fittings, and the altar of incense;

(9) the altar of burnt offering and all its utensils, and the laver and its stand;

(10) the service vestments, the sacral vestments of Aaron the priest and the vestments of his sons, for their service as priests;

(11) as well as the anointing oil and the aromatic incense for the sanctuary. Just as I have commanded you, they shall do.

(2) See, I have singled out by name Bezalel son of Uri son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah: Hur has already been mentioned earlier in the Torah in two contexts. He was, along with Aaron, one of Moses’ two closest assistants in the war with Amalek (17:10). And he was one of the leaders who remained with the people when Moses ascended the mountain for his forty-day stay there (24:12).

Hur was Moses’ nephew, the son of Caleb and Miriam, Moses’ sister. His descendants thus combine the royal bearing of the tribe of Judah and the priestly character of the Levites. Bezalel, who according to Tradition was only thirteen years old when hand-picked by God as the Tabernacle’s chief architect, represents the young, up-and-coming generation of the nation that left Egypt.

(3) I have endowed him with a divine spirit of skill, ability, and knowledge in every kind of craft: The literal translation is: “I have filled him with the spirit of God, in wisdom, and in understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship.”

“Wisdom” (chochmah) is an overall perceptiveness; “understanding” (tevunah) is the ability to analyze and distinguish nuances; “knowledge” (da’at) is the know-how that enables a person to act correctly in any given situation. A person who possesses all of these qualities together is said to be “filled with the spirit of God.”

(4) To make designs for work: Building the Sanctuary is creative work. It is not just about meeting the technical requirements.

(6) Moreover, I have assigned to him Oholiab son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan: Judah, Bezalel’s tribe, is the most advanced and organized. In Judaism, Judah and his tribe represent royalty, for they are the heirs to the kingdom (as seen in the Davidic dynasty; see also Gen. 49:10).

At the other end of the spectrum is the tribe of Dan. The Danites are the dissenters, anarchists, and provocateurs of the Jewish people (see Bible Dynamics commentary on Genesis 49:16-18). The Temple and all its accessories are to be built by synthesizing the characteristics of these two antipodal tribes of the Jewish people.

Some degree of anarchy and ataxia is essential not only for society in general (because certain non-standard situations cannot be addressed with “proper” practices and prescribed actions alone), but in matters of holiness as well.

And I have also granted skill to all who are skillful: The literal translation is: “And in the hearts of all that are wise-hearted I have put wisdom.” Only when someone is already wise can we then give them yet more wisdom (as paradoxical as this may seem).

(7) The Ark for the Pact and the cover upon it: The purpose of the Ark is to hold the tablets that establish ongoing revelation. The ark’s lid holds the cherubim.

(8) The pure lampstand: The “purity” of the menorah refers to its being fashioned from a single slab of pure gold.

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Bible Dynamics, VOL. 2. EXODUS Copyright © by Orot Yerushalaim / P. Polonsky / English translation of the Torah by the Jewish Publication Society, New JPS Translation, 1985. With sincere gratitude for the permission to use. All Rights Reserved.

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