Parashat VaYakhel – What’s in a Name? Or: Bezalel, Who are You?

In this Parsha we hear the story of the building of the Tabernacle, or Mishkan, by the People of Israel, as they wandered in the desert.  The Parsha tells us that it was a man named Bezalel, an anonymous character who we know little about, who was chosen to perform this important, holy task.

Interestingly, the Torah tells us almost nothing about him, apart from his name and the fact that he was appointed to bulid the Tabernacle. 

The midrash (Tanhuma, Vayakhel 1) tells us that a person has three names:  one given to him by his parents;  another given to him by other people; and the third acquired by him himself.  The midrash goes on to say that it was the good name Bezalel acquired for himself that made G-d choose him to build the tabernacle, as it says in this week’s parasha: “And Moses said unto the children of Israel: ‘See, the LORD hath called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah”. (Exodus 35:30). 

Perhaps the very fact we know so little about him suggests he could have been anyone.  It is up to each and every one of us to decide what actions we take, and what name we acquire in the eyes of G-d. Will it be we who are filled “with the spirit of God, in wisdom, in understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship…to devise skilful works… to think thoughts…” (Exodus 35:31-33)? Perhaps. It is in our hands!

I find that message to be very inspiring on a personal level.  Choice is a concept I struggle with daily. It is so easy for us to get caught up in negative thinking, and be held back by fear of failure, or by the sense that we are set in our ways, that it is too late to change.  I think the Torah’s powerful message here is that we are not only responsible for our actions, but actually capable of deciding who we want to be. 

I’ll try to keep that in mind…