Thursday, February 22, 2007


The Instructor and the Builder

Rabbi Gustavo Surazski

Parashat Terumah along with the remaining significant chapters of Sefer Shemot is dedicated to the commandment of the building of the Tabernacle.

After reading the Parashah the impression is that Moses built the Mishkan with his own hands. Almost all the commandments are directed at him ("And thou shall make a table of Ocacia" (Exodus 25, 23), "And thou shall make a pure gold Menorah" (25, 31), "And thou shall make the boards for the Mishkan" (26, 16).

But when reaching Parashat Ki Tissa we will see that Moses was not the one who actually built the Mishkan.

"And G-d spoke to Moses saying: Look, I called by his name Bezalel Ben Uri Ben Hur of Yehuda Tribe...and I gave, along with him Oholiav Ben Achisamach of Dan Tribe and I gave wisdom to the clever ones and they shall do all I have instructed you (Exodus 31 2-6).

Why did the Torah mention Moses as the Mishkan builder when we know that other hands did it?

This question appears in Exodus Rabbah on Parashat Trumah (Exodus Rabbah 35, 3):

Did Moses build the Tabernacle? It's written that Bezalel Oholiav and other clever people did it!

Moshe was the one who taught (how to build the Tabernacle) and Bezalel the one who made it. Therefore our Sages said that the reward should go to the person who causes someone to do (good) as well as to person who performs the deed himself. We find that Betzalel built the Tabernacle but the Holy One Blessed be He referred it to Moses' as it is said "God's Tabernacle which Moses made in the desert." (I Chronicles 21:29).

But in this Midrash there is an inner contradiction. If you really have to compensate the instructor in the same way as the builder then the verse in the Midrash does not prove it! On the contrary, it shows that the compensation of the instructor is higher than that of the builder as is says: "God's Tabernacle which Moses made in the desert". It is said "which Moses made" and not "which Moses and Betzalel made"!

This rule appears in the Gemarah in a slightly different version. Rabbi Eleazar says in Babba Batra (9a) "The person who causes someone to do good is greater than the one who performs the deed himself" (Gadol Ha-Measeh Yoter min Ha-Oseh).

One can learn about this rule from the laws of putting on the Tefillin:

Even if it seems that the hand on which the Tefillin is put is the one that fulfilled the Mitzvah, the opposite is correct: The hand that tied is the one who causes the fulfillment of the Mitzvah (Ha-Measeh). The hand that the Tefillin is on, just merited the Mitzvah that was executed by the tying hand!

Gadol Ha-Measeh Yoter min Ha-Oseh...

It is quite possible that Moses did not have the potential to build the Mishkan and the genetics was not at his side when the artistic talents were handed out. But it was he who encouraged the people to give and taught Bezalel the plan. Moshe was the one who suffered sleepless nights until the project was completed.

And even if Bezalel built the Mishkan, Moshe is the one who made it because the person who causes someone to do a good deed is greater than the one who performs the deed himself.

Previous Drashot

Terumah 5766 – Deeds, not Words

Thursday, February 01, 2007


The Horses' Betrayal

by Rabbi Gustavo Suraski

Parashat Beshalach is that of the parting of the Red Sea. I have always asked myself what caused Pharaoh's army to pursue the children of Israel into the divided waters. Didn't they realize that G-d would save his children this time too? They had already witnessed the power of G-d, suffered ten terrible plagues, and still not got the message?!

An interesting and rather nice interpretation appears in the Midrash, according to which the waves of the parted sea appeared to be mares – and Pharaoh's stallions went charging in after them. The Egyptians saw their reaction and remarked to their horses: "Yesterday we wanted to take you to the water to drink but you refused, yet now you are chasing after the water?!!". The stallions replied: "Look what is in the sea! Look at the mares!!" (Shemot Rabbah 23, 14).

What does this midrash teach us? Even if we are aware that stallions tend to chase after mares, it is not my intention to discuss equine fantasies at this point… (nor do I believe that this was the intention of the Midrash).

To me the lesson of the midrash is clear. The strength of the Egyptians lay in their horses. And buried in this strength was also their weakness, and, ultimately, their downfall. This story resembles that of the ram in the story of the attempted sacrifice of Isaac. Its strength was in its horns – its "weapons" – but it was these same horns which ultimately caused it to be trapped in the bushes.

Each feature has both strong and weak elements…

Since the founding of the State, our enemies have taught us that the only way to preserve ourselves is to acquire and manufacture arms and weapons of war. We have become a major military force in the world and Israel's military budget grows from year to year.

This is both important and necessary. There is no other way and we cannot rely on miracles. No one else will defend us if we don't do it ourselves.

But this is only one aspect of reality. It is not only the weapons which will save us as a nation. Not the horses, or the tanks, or the planes. The preservation of our values will also save us, both spiritually and ethically.

"Not by military force and not by physical strength, but by My spirit", says the Lord of Hosts" as written by the Prophet Zechariah (Zechariah 4, 6). It is not only our strength which will protect us. For horses, tanks and weapons can also betray us from time to time.

In every characteristic, even military force, there are also weaknesses and vulnerability.

"Not by military force and not by physical strength, but by My spirit".