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Shadow of God

Vayakhel-Pekudei (Exodus 35-40 )

by Rabbi Shraga Simmons

Parshat Pekudei tells about Betzalel, the man who supervised the design and construction of the Tabernacle. The name Betzalel literally means "in the shadow of God." This name alludes to his architectural ability, which came through understanding the code of how God combined Hebrew letters to create the world.


Betzalel's great wisdom is recorded by the Talmud in the following incident: Moses gave an instruction to build the Holy Ark, and then to construct the Tabernacle to house the Ark. But Betzalel reasoned that since the Ark is the single most important component, the Tabernacle must be built first, in order to receive the Ark.


In this way Betzalel also drew a parallel to God's creation of the world, where all plants and animals preceded human beings - so the entire world would be ready to receive mankind, the pinnacle of creation.


We recall this idea every Friday night in the Lecha Dodi prayer, where we sing "Sof Ma'ase b'Machshava Techila" - what occurs last in deed, is actually foremost in thought.


And this is a crucial life lesson. A person needs to know his end goal, the ultimate purpose of life - and only then will his activities take on true purpose and meaning. That's why the study of wisdom is so important. Because if we just go along, hoping to figure things out along the way, we'll spend a lot of time - maybe even a lifetime - building elaborate structures that have no ultimate meaning.


So make it a priority to learn the true goal of life, because otherwise, as the saying goes, "If you don't know where you're going ... you're destined to never get there."



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