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