The wisdom of sharing our gifts with others

The wisdom of sharing our gifts with others

Vayakhel | Exodus 35:1-38:20

In last week’s parsha, at the end of the instructions for the making of the Mishkan (Tabernacle) and its furnishings, we met Betzalel, son of Uri, son of Hur, whom God had appointed to be the chief craftsman overseeing all the work of the sanctuary.

And in the recapitulation we read this week, we find exactly the same words used to describe Betzalel: “He [God] has endowed him with a divine spirit of skill (hokhma), ability (t’vuna), and knowledge (da’at) in every kind of craft.” The verse describes three types of knowledge and Betzalel needed them all to perform his task.

What distinguishes them? Here is Rashi’s explanation: hokhma — that which one hears from others and learns, what one is taught by others, book learning; t’vuna — he understands a matter from his own mind based on the things he has learned, that which one deduces from what has been taught, the result of reason and logic; and da’at — the Holy Spirit, inspiration.

Rabbi Abraham ben HaRambam offered this explanation: hokhma — what a person learns and remembers from his colleagues; t’vuna — what he creates by the application of his intelligence and innovates by thinking, imagination, vision, and analogy; da’at — the intellectual perfection emerging from the combination of hokhma and t’vuna.

Betzalel’s talent came from a combination of learning, thinking, and inspiration. As Israeli scholar Avivah Zornberg wrote in her book on Exodus, The Particulars of Rapture, “these three characteristics of Betzalel…have become a formula for completeness of wisdom”: learning from others, the exercise of one’s intellect, and, in Zornberg’s words, “a gift that can be explained in no other way than as taught by God.”

With this in mind, the Torah tells us one more important thing about Betzalel: “and [the ability] to instruct he [God] has put in his mind.” Betzalel’s talent, his artistry, was surely in part of his own making, the fruit of his study and reason, but it was also a gift from God. And Betzalel understood that such gifts from God are meant to be shared, and so he not only used his gift to make the Mishkan, but taught others as well.

Each of us has unique gifts — artistic, practical, intellectual, physical, and spiritual. The Torah teaches us that wisdom requires that we not only develop and use them well, but also share them with others, giving to others some of what has been so generously given to us.

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