Shabbat Parashat Terumah| 5763
Sometimes We See Better in the Shade
The menorah was chosen as a symbol of the State of Israel. Contemplating the story of the menorah’s creation can shed some new light on the appropriateness of that choice.
Although, in general, Betzalel was in charge of the construction of the mishkan, several statements of Chazal assume that Moshe was commanded to sculpt the menorah himself. Indeed, he alone was on Har Sinai when Hashem showed what it should look like (see Shemot 25:39). Yet, when it came time to do the work, Moshe failed time after time to remember how to do it (Bamidbar Rabba 15:10). According to one version, after being shown again a model made of fire, he succeeded in making it (see Rashi 25:40). According to other versions, Moshe simply threw the gold into the fire, and the menorah came out (Tanchuma Yashan, B’ha’alotcha 4). According to a third version, Moshe had to ask Betzalel, who succeeded in producing a proper menorah without instructions.
What are we to learn from these midrashim? Apparently, the idea of an instrument worthy of holding a special, spiritual light which would shine forth from the Beit Hamikdash to the world was so special that it deserved Moshe’s direct handling. Moshe was fully able to grasp a menorah of fire in the abstract, spiritual form, as he saw it on Har Sinai. However, upon returning to the realities of a physical world and an imperfect society, he was too completely spiritual to translate the matter into practical application.
According to one opinion, no man could combine the necessary qualities. Hashem had to arrange things Himself and wanted only the hishtadlut (efforts) of man. According to the other approach, Betzalel was able to do it, but not Moshe. The Midrash (ibid.) points out that Betzalel’s name (“in the shadow of Hashem”) hints at the key to his success. Indeed, without exposure to the Divine, he would have been unable to figure out how to form the menorah. But whereas Moshe came face to face with spirituality and was “blinded by the light” in this regard, Betzalel was “in the shade.” He used Moshe as a conduit and picked up a reflection of the instructions given to Moshe to inspire him.
Many complain that the State of Israel was founded by men who were not of the spiritual standing we would expect or demand. Indeed, many gedolim, like Moshe before them, did not see how it was possible to create such a lofty ideal as malchut Yisrael (Jewish kingdom) in such a flawed situation. From one perspective, B’nei Yisrael were capable only of providing the raw materials, in the form of mesirut nefesh, and Hashem Himself created the State in a manner we couldn’t have foreseen. In another respect, people of a lower level than Moshe (or Betzalel), who had certain qualities and, in their own way, were inspired by sacred, Jewish ideals, which were reflected onto them, were the ones who succeeded in taking the necessary physical steps which Hashem decreed.
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