Haftarah Parshat Vayakhel
(1 Kings 7:40-50)
February 22, 2014
22 AdarI 5774
The construction of the Mishkan (the sanctuary), the sacred center of the children of Israel in the desert, was a project which joined together all the disparate elements of the tribal confederation in an uncommon show of unity. This project was overseen by two expert craftsmen from tribes far afield from one another, Betzalel ben Uri ben Hur from the tribe of Judah and Ohaliav ben Ahisamach from the tribe of Dan. Similarly, when King Solomon went to build the Temple in Jerusalem, he, too, choose to head up the project an artisan of special skills from a tribe in the periphery, Hiram (who shared a common first name with the king of neighboring country), who was the “son of the widow of the tribe of Naphtali and his father had been a Tyrian, a coppersmith” (7:13), thus combining his (Solomon’s) leadership from the tribe of Judah with that of tribe far from the centers of power.
In the following midrash, the sages noticed a pattern in these selections: Rabbi Hanina b. Pazzi said: No tribe was greater than Judah and none lowlier than Dan, which descended from one of the maidservants. God said: ‘Let him [Dan] come and be associated with him [Judah], so that no man may despise him (Dan) or become arrogant (Judah), for both great and small are equal in God’s sight, Bezalel comes from the tribe of Judah and Ohaliab from Dan, yet [the latter] is associated with him.’ Rabbi Hanina said: The great and the small are equal, and one should never ignore the help [of the smaller]. The Tabernacle was constructed by these two tribes and the Temple likewise [was the work of two tribes], for Solomon was of the tribe of Judah, and Hiram was ‘the son of a widow of the tribe of Naphtali’ (I Kings 7:14)’. The Lord said: ‘I am your Help [Stronghold]; do not abandon your Help nor the Help of your fathers.’ (Adapted from Shmot Rabbah 40:4)
The sages projected onto the process of selecting the craftsmen for these building projects the cognizance that the success of communal projects required more than merely recruiting the right talent. It was also necessary to make sure that everyone felt that they were making an important contribution to the project – that they were integral to its success. This was particularly important to the central religious institution of the community.
*This lesson is dedicated to the memory of my dear friend, Rabbi Marvin Richardson, may his memory be for a blessing.