Beit Midrash

  • Torah Portion and Tanach
  • Ki Tisa
To dedicate this lesson

Courage and Commitment

Why didn’t Hashem just announce the whole total of the nation? Why did Moshe have to go around to the tents at all?


Rabbi Stewart Weiss

Adar 19 5781
A salmon & a chicken were once walking down the street when they passed by a restaurant. On the window was a sign that read: SPECIAL TODAY: LOX AND EGGS.

The chicken turned to the salmon and said, "Hey, why don’t we go in there and help these people out!"

The salmon vigorously shook his fins & said, "Nothing doing, chickadee! I’m not setting foot in that place - no how, no way!"

"Why not?" said the chicken. "We all have to do our part for the common good. Why won’t you help?!"

"Because from you," replied the salmon, "they want a contribution. From me, they want a commitment!"

Our Sedra begins with the counting of the people. This must have been a daunting task; Rashi says each person passed under the bar to be registered. Even Moshe Rabbeinu was fazed by the enormity of the task (as an extremely modest person, he also did not want to intrude on the privacy of each tent). And so, says the Midrash, Hashem assisted him in the counting: Moshe would stand outside and call out the name of the family, and a Bat Kol would call out from Heaven and reply with the number of souls for Moshe to record.

Which causes us to ask: Why didn’t Hashem just announce the whole total of the nation? Why did Moshe have to go around to the tents at all? The answer should be obvious: It’s never G-d's task alone. We all have our part to play. We cannot be lazy & leave it up to just Hashem; as his partners in the great adventure of life, we must be active contributors - in the economy, the army, the government, education - in every sphere of life. He’ll do his part, to be sure, but we have our own calling, as well.

In our Parsha, young Bezalel (a tender 13-year old!) is chosen as the Mishkan’s Chief Architect. Now, what is it that made Bezalel so special? Sure, he must have been skilled, and blessed with energy & creativity. But why specifically choose him, & not others?

The answer, I suggest, is hinted at in his introduction: He is called "Bezalel son of Uri, son of Chur." His assistant, Ohaliav, is only traced back one generation, to his father, while Bezalel is linked to his grandfather. According to the Midrash, Chur was killed al Kiddush Hashem when he tried to stop the people from building the Golden Calf. He defiantly stood up to them, but was murdered by the wild mob. It is this quality of m’sirat nefesh which Bezalel inherited from his grandfather & which set him apart, which passionately infused his art and made him a bit more qualified than others. Like his grandfather, Bezalel was prepared to give his all - down to his very soul – in order to employ his significant talents and play his rightful part in G-d's world.

He was prepared not just to make a contribution; he was ready to make a commitment. Are we?
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