Our final chapters of Sefer Shmot recap the building of the Mishkan, a fitting conclusion to a book which dealt with the building of the nation & the transition from the individual to the collective.
Assigned the ambitious task of "Artistic Director" of the entire project is Bezalel. A mere "Bar Mitzva boy" of 13, Betzalel had great skill working with precious metals & gems, woodwork, weaving & embroidery. He also, records the Torah, was "filled with the spirit of G-d, with wisdom, insight & Divine inspiration." Quite a resume!
But beyond the fact that Betzalel was clearly a child prodigy, a wunderkind, was there anything else which qualified him for this most prestigious position? What made him – above all others – worthy of the task?
Betzalel had a distinguished pedigree. He was the great-grandson of both Calev, who, along with Yehoshua, argued strenuously in favor of the nation entering Israel; & Miriam, Moshe’s older sister, who was a leader in her own right. And yet, despite this celebrated ancestry, Betzalel is not identified as Calev & Miriam’s descendant! In fact, his genealogy ends with his grandfather, Chur.
And therein lies our clue to why Betzalel was the one chosen by G-d.
The Torah hints to the secret of Betzalel’s greatness in two subtle ways, both by what it says & what it does NOT say. Each time Betzalel is mentioned, his lineage is traced back to Chur; yet when his assistant, Ohaliav, is spoken about, only his father’s name is given. Note, too, that the Torah introduces the appointment with the words: "See: Hashem has called him by name." I suggest that the unusual phrase, "by name," begs us to look at his name! And clearly, what stands out most about his name is the inclusion of grandfather Chur.
Who was Chur? We know that he, along with Yehoshua, held up Moshe’s hands when Yehoshua and the nation fought Amalek. But Chur would die a martyr’s death; he alone stood up to the people when they were building the Egel HaZahav & was murdered by the mob when he tried to stop them. This, I suggest, is the key.
Betzalel had an amazing breadth of knowledge of all things artistic. But he also inherited from his Saba Chur a fiery devotion to Hashem, a passionate love of G-d borne of courage & supreme conviction. THAT was the added quality, the "secret ingredient" that infused his art, the "ruach" which gave soul & substance to the inanimate objects of the Mishkan.
Chur gave his very life for Hashem, & that zeal lived on in his grandson’s handiwork, & made him the master artisan.