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Parashat Vayakhel/Pekudei: The Artist

Paintbrush artist Nail art

The concluding Parshiyot of Sefer Shemot focus on the work that Betzalel, Bnai Yisrael’s artist-in-residence, did to complete the construction of the Mishkan. When Moshe introduces Betzalel’s work to Bnai Yisrael he states,  “See! God has called by name, Betzalel” (Shemot 35:30). Ramban, Nachmanides, states that the word “see!” emphasizes how out of the ordinary it was to come upon a person as skilled as Betzalel. Since Bnai Yisrael were mostly accustomed to working with brick and mortar, it was unusual to find an individual so skilled in working with precious metals and stones. The Israeli Bible scholar Nehama Leibowitz emphasizes how Betzalel represented a generational shift from centuries of slavery to a Jewish future of innovation and creative artisanship. Leibowitz explains that this newness is the force of the word “see!” What do think was important about Betzalel’s contribution to Bnai Yisrael? How do we foster creativity and innovation in the Jewish community today? Chazak Chazak V’Nitchazek!

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