KI TISA (Exodus 31:11 - 34:35)

March 14, 2009

There are some dramatic moments in Ki Tisa - Golden Calf, God's 13 attributes of Mercy, Moses radiant face when he returns a 2nd time from the Mountain.  I want to look at some quieter moments in Exodus, Chapter 31.

Bezalel is to me a very interesting character.  He is an artist, excelling in working with precious metals and stone, wood carving, and in weaving and embroidery. 


In Exod 31:1-3            God says to Moses: I have called Bezalel ben Uri, of the tribe of Judah...I have filled him with a Godly Spirit, with

Wisdom                     Understanding                                 Knowledge

HoK'MoH                   T'VuWNoH = BiNoH                         DaAaT


Wisdom+Understanding+Knowledge which (from Hebrew) = ChaBaD.  What do you think these three attributes encompass?  [Assumption is, 3 different things.]

One view: 

Wisdom= comprehending basic principles of the Universe.  Understanding=deriving ideas from that.  Knowledge=applying these in practical way.

This makes sense to me, the three moving from core ideas to everyday details, and from the cosmic to mundane.

[Rashi's view: 

Wisdom is what you acquire from others;

Understanding is when you derive new ideas and inferences from your wisdom;

Knowledge is Divine inspiration.]

These three concepts are also part of mystical Judaism, forming a special triangle of God's higher attributes.

Who else besides Bezalel has this special trinity of ChaBaD?  Only 3 others in the Bible:

Hiram, King of Tyre.

I Kings 7:14            ...and he was filled with wisdom, and understanding, and cunning to work all works in brass.

Hiram is Solomon's chief artisan for the Temple.  Hiram is the artist for the Temple in Jerusalem as Bezalel is for the Tabernacle in the Wilderness. 

The Messiah:

The Spirit of Adonai will rest on him - the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of Adonai. [Is 11:2]

The Messiah will have ChaBaD plus 3 other assets.    [This is a famous chapter from Isaiah that begins: There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse....] 


Adonai founded the earth with Wisdom, He establishes heavens with Understanding, through His Knowledge the depths were cleaved   [Prov 3:19-20]

Let's return to Bezalel, the great artist.  Ironically, he must almost like a robot follow very precise directions in making the Tabernacle and its ritual props.  Does it make sense to impose so many restrictive details on a creative spirit?  Is this like hiring Michelangelo to do a paint-by-numbers velvet art?  [Remember those velvet paintings of horses and dogs that would go on the wall of the playroom?]  What do you think? 

Exod 31 says that Bezalel has a Godly Spirit as well as ChaBaD.  Because Bezalel is filled with a Divine spirit, He is doing God's work and that can extend to God's attribute as Creator.

Also, creativity is suggested by the Hebrew phrase for Divine Spirit - RuaH AeLoHiYM.  Why?  In Gen 1:2, we read W'RuaH AeLoHiYM..., the Spirit of God hovered over the face of the waters.  The next verse is And God said Let there be light and there was light, this is God's first Act of Creation.

Combining Bezalel's ChaBaD with the Spirit of God is therefore a good fit for a great artist.

[Note also that the Isaiah verse describing the Messiah also combines the Spirit of God with ChaBad, just as Exod 31 does for Bezalel].

Very few people can have ChaBaD like Bezalel.  But to be filled with the Spirit of God is something we can achieve. 

Who else in the Bible is said to have in them the Spirit of God?

Googling TaNaK for RuaH AeLoHiYM or RuaH HaShem:

Prophesy                  Joseph, Eldad/Medad, Bilaam, David, Elijah, Azariah

Warrior                Othniel, Gideon, Jephthah, Samson                     

Psychosis             Saul

In Chapter 31, the concept of Spirit of God can arise in a fourth category.  Right after the phrase is used to describe Bezalel, we have a passage on being Shabbat Shomer, keeping the Sabbath.

In 31:16-17 we have: [Say in Hebrew] The children of Israel shall observe the Sabbath, throughout their generations for an eternal covenant, because on the seventh day God ShoVaT WaYiNoFaSh, [usually translated] God rested and was refreshed or literally was "re-souled" or "filled with soul". 

What does re-souled or filled with soul mean here?

A commentary says on Shabbat this applies to us, that we have an extra soul on Shabbat - not just God, but us, too. 

I think that extra soulfulness can mean the Spirit of God.  The word WaYiNoFaSh is near the phrase RuaH AeLoHiYM.

We are filled with a Divine Spirit when we observe Shabbat, we can be like God was on the first Shabbat.

Shabbat is many things - A Bride; a Queen; a remembrance of Creation and Redemption.  Here in Chapter 31 it has a fourth attribute, the eternal sign of our covenant with God.  The covenant includes many mitzvot.  I think we can extend this idea from Shabbat, as a symbol for the covenant, which includes all commandments, to say that when we do any mitzvah as God's covenantal partner, we are filled with a Divine spirit as on Shabbat.  Abraham Joshua Heschel expressed this when he said: No one is lonely when doing a mitzvah, for a mitzvah is where God and man meet. ["God In Search of Man" p. 312]. Any  mitzvah.

So like Bezalel, we can be filled with soul, with the Divine Spirit when we affirm the covenant, by doing God's Will.  And each Jewish community affirms the covenant in its own way; each can identify the deeds it needs to do to be a partner with God and refresh our souls.

We should periodically ask ourselves: How are we affirming the covenant?  We do Study, Worship, Deeds of Lovingkindness, and we treat every person with respect to recognize the image of God in each of them.

A final note: ChaBaD relates to the covenant, also, since HoK'MoH + BiNoH + DaAaT = 614 = BaV'RiYT, in the covenant.



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