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Va-Yakhel 5771

Haftarah Parshat Vayakhel
(1 Kings 7:40-50)
February 26, 2011
22 Adar I, 5771

The correlation between this week’s Torah reading and the haftarah is not difficult to discern. Both deal with the nitty-gritty tasks of building the central sacred cultic site – in the Torah – the mishkan (the sanctuary) and in Kings – the Beit Hamikdash (the Holy Temple). The chief artisans for the sanctuary project were Bezalel son of Uri son of Hur of the tribe of Judah and Oholiab son of Ahisamach of the tribe of Dan. The Temple project was headed up by King Solomon from the tribe of Judah and “Hiram from Tyre; he was the son of a widow of the tribe of Naphtali, and his father had been a Tyrian, a coppersmith. (1 Kings 7:14)” Hiram’s tribal identity seems to have been a matter of contention. In 2 Chronicles 2:12, his mother is said to have been from the tribe of Dan: “Huram, the son of a Danite woman, his father a Tyrian.”

One modern scholar explains the supposed change in tribal identity found in Chronicles as an attempt to associate Hiram with Oholiab so that the craftsmen for Temple were from the same tribes as those from the building of the Sanctuary in the desert. (See M. Cogan, 1 Kings, Anchor Bible, p. 261, n. 7:13) Rabbi David Kimche (13th century Provence) resolved this difficulty differently. He asserts that the Hiram was born of a father from the tribe of Naphtali who lived in Tyre and a mother from the tribe of Dan.

The source for Kimche’s interpretation is the following passage from the Talmud. This source comes both to resolve the discrepancy between Kings and Chronicles and to derive a message from the association between the builders of the Sanctuary and those of the Temple: “Said Rabbi Yochanan: From where do we learn that a person should not change his profession from that of his ancestors? It is written: ‘King Solomon sent for Hiram and brought him down from Tyre, son of a widow of the tribe of Naphtali and his father had been a Tyrian, a coppersmith.’ (1 Kings 7:13-14) And a master said: His mother was from the house of Dan, and it is written: ‘at his side was Oholiab son of Ahisamach of the tribe of Dan’ (Exodus 38:23)” (Arach in 16b)

Rabbi Yochanan saw great importance in establishing a family link between Hiram and Oholiab in order to teach the value of passing a profession from one generation to the next. Perhaps he saw in maintaining a profession over generations a special means of bonding. Alas, we do not necessarily center our family ties on shared professions, nor do we necessarily share musical or cultural tastes from one generation to the next. What should tie us to each other over the course of generations is our shared faith and the kind of lives we live in accordance with our faith. This constitutes the Temple that we continue to build throughout the generations.

About This Commentary

This study piece is offered as a service of the United Synagogue Conservative Yeshiva. It is prepared by Rabbi Mordechai (Mitchell) Silverstein, senior lecturer in  Talmud and Midrash at the Conservative Yeshiva.  He is a graduate of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America.

The United Synagogue Conservative Yeshiva in Jerusalem offers students of all backgrounds the skills for studying Jewish texts. We are a vibrant, open-minded egalitarian community of committed Jews who learn, practise and grow together. Our goal is to provide students the ability and desire to continue Jewish learning and practice throughout their lives.
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