First Things FirstFebruary 24, 2014 - 5:00 am
Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, made everything the LORD commanded Moses. — Exodus 38:22
The Torah portion for this week is Pekudei, which means “counting,” from Exodus 38:21–40:38, and the Haftorah is from 1 Kings 7:51–8:21.
Once I was in my car en route to an important meeting. As I took out my GPS to get directions to the meeting, I realized that I had forgotten the address in my hotel room and the name of the meeting place escaped me. All that technology at my fingertips, and it was useless. The GPS couldn’t tell me where to go if I didn’t know where I wanted to be!
As we review the building of the Tabernacle this week in the Torah portion Pekudei, the Bible once again informs us that the man who spearheaded the building was Bezalel from the tribe of Judah. A few chapters back when we were first introduced to Bezalel, Scripture told us: “See, I have chosen Bezalel . . . and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with wisdom” (Exodus 31:2–3). The name “Bezalel” means “Shadow of God.” The Sages teach that this name alludes to Bezalel’s architectural skills which came from his ability to understand how God created the world.
As a case in point, the Talmud describes that when it came to building the Tabernacle and its ritual vessels, Moses suggested that Bezalel first build the Holy Ark of the Covenant and then the Tabernacle to house the Ark. However, Bezalel disagreed. He insisted that the Tabernacle be built first and only then the Ark should be constructed and placed inside it. To support his decision, Bezalel drew from God’s creation of the world.
When God created the world, He made human beings last. Humanity would be the crown of His creation. God prepared the world for human beings first, and then created them last. Similarly, Bezalel understood that the Ark was the most important element of the Tabernacle. It was only fitting that the “house” for the Ark be constructed first so that it was ready to receive the Ark once it was created.
The Sages have an expression that describes this idea: “last in deed, first in thought.” While humanity was created last, humans were God’s foremost thought, and the same is true about the Ark. This idea also gives us an important message for life.
We first need to have an idea of what we want to do and where we want to go. Only then will we be able to take effective steps to get there. If we don’t know where we want to go, we can go everywhere and never get anywhere. But when we begin with the end in mind, we will be well on our way to ending up exactly where we want to be.