B'tzal'el the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Y'hudah, made everything that Adonai ordered Moshe to make. (Exo 38:22 CJB)
THE PRIORITIES OF BETSALEL.
In this parasha Moshe relays HaShem's instructions for the building of the tabernacle to Elyohav and Betsalel. He relays these instructions in a certain order, but according to our text, the two anointed craftsmen follow the instructions in the reverse order. This may be considered unimportant or even an oversight in the Text but it is dangerous to start attributing oversights to the Sacred Text of the Torah, so let's say that these are accurate renderings of what happened. The issue did not escape medieval commentator, Rashi. Let's look at what he had to say about it.
Rabbi Shmuel bar Naḥmani said that Rabbi Yonatan said: Bezalel was called by that name on account of his wisdom. When the Holy One, Blessed be He, said to Moses: Go say to Bezalel, “Make a tabernacle, an ark, and vessels” (see Exodus 31:7–11), Moses went and reversed the order and told Bezalel: “Make an ark, and vessels, and a tabernacle” (see Exodus 25–26). He said to Moses: Moses, our teacher, the standard practice throughout the world is that a person builds a house and only afterward places the vessels in the house, and you say to me: Make an ark, and vessels, and a tabernacle. If I do so in the order you have commanded, the vessels that I make, where shall I put them? Perhaps God told you the following: “Make a tabernacle, ark, and vessels” (see Exodus 36). Moses said to Bezalel: Perhaps you were in God’s shadow [betzel El], and you knew precisely what He said. You intuited God’s commands just as He stated them, as if you were there. Rashi in Berachot 55a.
Rabbi Yeruchem Levovitz has a very interesting take on the issue. He comments on Rashi’s idea by adding that by this, we are to learn the importance of having things done in their proper order; we learn about the importance of prioritizing. (Daas Torah: Shmos pp.350-1)
According to Rashi’s midrash, Betsalel was blessed with a spirit of wisdom. His wisdom was his sense of prioritizing, of what is important, of what comes first.
In his book, Growth Through Torah, Rabbi Zelig Pliskin says, “We will never have enough time to do everything we would like to. But by being aware of the order of importance of what you have to do, you will ensure that you will effectively accomplish the most possible within the limitations of the time allotted to you.”
The Scriptures have much to say about prioritizing and deciding what is most important in life. Jumping to modern times, here is the testimony of a car salesman about it.
Many people have really made a mess of their lives by having the wrong priorities in life. I had a job as a car salesman for about 12 years and every day I was amazed at the choices that many people were trying to make. There were very few people that really needed a new car but just were trading in their ‘old’ car to get the newest style or maybe a new feature. I do not have a problem with people buying a new car but where it really amazed me was when people were trying to trade a car that they owed more than it was worth in order to incur more debt that they often times could not afford. These choices often led to disastrous consequences in other areas of life.
But I cannot point my finger too far as we all (if we are honest) struggle in this area of priorities. Maybe you don’t struggle in buying a new car but what about your time? Do you put God first in your life with the time you spend with Him? Or how are we doing in the area of service and loving our neighbor? We often get this priority out of balance and desire to be served instead of following the model and example that Yeshua showed.
Time and money are related. HaShem gives us time which allows us to earn money. How we spend our money therefore defines how we spend the time HaShem gives us; it defines what is important to us. For example, my wife doesn’t care about very fancy expensive brand clothing but she will spend money on her grandkids. She doesn’t care about spending her hard earned money on fancy clothes, but she’ll work herself ragged in order to be able to spend money on the grand-kids. That is because they are important to her. They are worth her time, and money.
The question is then for each of us, “What is important to us?” “What are our priorities?”
The Tanach has much to say about this.
Let’s see the most important of all first (You see, I am prioritizing :-))
"You are to have no other gods before me. (Exo 20:3 CJB)
HaShem teaches us that He is to be the most important priority in our lives. I could really stop this midrash here as all the rest of the Torah teaches us is how to accomplish that.
Let’s go to the first instruction about it,
And you are to love Adonai your God with all your heart, all your being and all your resources.
(Deu 6:5 CJB)
Here we are told that HaShem needs to utterly dominate the usage of our will (heart), our body (soul), and our money (resources). We accomplish that by agreeing to do it. We have the choice not to.
Yeshua put the same principle in different words. He said,
No one can be slave to two masters; for he will either hate the first and love the second, or scorn the second and be loyal to the first. You can't be a slave to both God and money. (Mat 6:24 CJB)
This statement comes at the heel of a teaching about prioritizing our money. Here is how it goes.
(Mat 6:19 CJB) "Do not store up for yourselves wealth here on earth, where moths and rust destroy, and burglars break in and steal.
Don’t invest your life’s efforts in things belonging to this earthly realm. What’s the logic in that since things seen are temporary (2 Cor 4:18)
(Mat 6:20 CJB) Instead, store up for yourselves wealth in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and burglars do not break in or steal.
That makes more sense since things not seen are eternal. (2 Cor 4:18)
(Mat 6:21 CJB) For where your wealth is, there your heart will be also.
Our heart is in what we prioritize as important, in what we value.
Then Yeshua uses a Hebrew idiom which compares a stingy person to someone with an evil eye, and a generous person with having a good eye. It is an idiom. Idioms are not interpreted literally.
(Mat 6:22 CJB) 'The eye is the lamp of the body.' So if you have a 'good eye' [that is, if you are generous] your whole body will be full of light;
(Mat 6:23 CJB) but if you have an 'evil eye' [if you are stingy] your whole body will be full of darkness. If, then, the light in you is darkness, how great is that darkness!
The conclusion is that one who stingy serves money, but one who is generous serves HaShem, and you can’t serve both. We must establish priorities in our lives.
(Mat 6:24 CJB) No one can be slave to two masters; for he will either hate the first and love the second, or scorn the second and be loyal to the first. You can't be a slave to both God and money.
On the subject of worldly wealth versus spiritual wealth our Master did not say that worldly wealth was wrong, He only chided us for making it a priority in our lives. That is why he teaches us a sense of priority when he says,
Seek first his Kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (Mat 6:33 CJB)
Fame is also a big priority for people. It has become a god of this world, the god of self. Here is what Yeshua has to say about it.
He said to them, "... What people regard highly is an abomination before God! (Luk 16:15 CJB)
"Woe to you when people speak well of you, for that is just how their fathers treated the false prophets! (Luk 6:26 CJB)
MORE TEACHINGS ON PRIORITIES.
King Solomon had much to say about prioritizing.
For everything there is a season, a right time for every intention under heaven --a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to throw stones and a time to gather stones, a time to embrace and a time to refrain, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to discard, a time to tear and a time to sew, a time to keep silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace. (Ecc 3:1-8 CJB)
Prepare your outside work, and get things ready for yourself on the land; after that, build your house.
(Pro 24:27 CJB)
He who pursues righteousness and kindness finds life, prosperity and honor. (Pro 21:21 CJB)
He learned it from his father who also knew how to prioritize,
The first and foremost point of wisdom is the fear of Adonai; all those living by it gain good common sense. His praise stands forever. (Psa 111:10 CJB)
Here is what may happen when we don’t. This is the word of HaShem to Israel through the prophet Haggai when Israel failed to prioritize on the work of the Temple in favor of doing their own thing.
'You looked for much, but it came to little; and when you brought it home, I blew it away.
Why?' asks Adonai-Tzva'ot. '
Because my house lies in ruins, while every one of you runs to take care of his own house.
(Hag 1:9 CJB)
MAY WE KNOW HOW TO ESTABLISH OUR LIFE’S PRIORITIES.
MAY WE BE BLESSED WITH THE WISDOM OF BETSALEL.
R' Gavriel Lumbroso