The Difference Between Moshe and Betzalel [Understanding Why Betzalel Was Able to Make the Menorah, Whilst Moshe Couldn’t]
From HaGaon Rav Zevadia HaCohen Shlit”a, The Head of the Batei Din in Tel Aviv
(translated by our dear friend Rav Daniel Levy Shlit”a, Leeds UK)
This Shabbat we shall read in the weekly Parashah the donations the Bnei Yisrael gave to the building of the Mishkan. This included, “gold, silver, copper, sky-blue [wool], dark red [wool], [wool dyed with] crimson worm, linen, goat’s wool, reddened rams’ skins, blue-processed skins, acacia wood, oil for the lamp, spices for the anointing oil and the sweet-smelling incense, and sardonyxes and other precious stones for the ephod and breastplate” (Shemot 25:3).
Amongst the Mishkan’s utensils was also a golden Menorah. Therefore is states in the Parashah, “Make a Menorah out of pure gold. The Menorah shall be formed by hammering it. Its base, stem and [decorative] cups, spheres and flowers must be hammered out of a [single piece of gold]” (Shemot 25:31).
The Midrash Rabba (15:9) states: Hashem said to Moshe, “You shall fashion a pure golden Menorah,” Moshe asked Hashem, “How shall I make it? Hashem said to him, “You shall fashion it beaten out!” Moshe found it difficult to envisage how it would be made. Hashem took a Menorah of fire and showed it to Moshe. He was further bewildered with its making. Hashem said to him, “Go to Betzalel and he will fashion it.” He spoke to Betzalel and immediately he fashioned the Menorah.
It begs the question, how can it be? Moshe, the father of all prophets, is commanded by Hashem to fashion the Menorah and Hashem even shows him a fiery image of the Menorah and yet Moshe doesn’t succeed in understanding it. Yet Betzalel is told once and he immediately succeeds? What happened to Moshe Rabbeinu?
In order to comprehend this, we will preface it with a story of the Gerrer Rebbe’s son-in-law. He became ill and required complex surgery. He was admitted to the hospital in the city of Warsaw. The Rebbe hired an experienced and well-known professor in Warsaw who would perform the operation on his son-in-law. However, during the operation, they informed the Rebbe that there is a complication and that the operation will take longer than anticipated.
The Rebbe heard this and immediately went to the hospital to enquire after his son-in-law’s welfare and ascertain why there is a complication in the operation. The Rebbe met the great professor and asked him, “Your honour is great and well experienced, why the complication in the operation?”
The surgeon replied, “To what is this comparable? To a great king that had a precious stone, large and very rare in its splendour. The value of the stone was extremely high. After some time, a small flaw appeared darkening the gem and devalued it. All the experts, that the king sought to remedy the problem with this precious stone and to remove its flaw, knew that this stone is very dear to the king. As such, they refrained from dealing with it, in case in the process of dealing with the king’s precious stone, they won’t deal with it correctly and the stone will likely shatter, causing untold damage and they will then have to face the consequences. What did they do? They gave the stone to a simple artisan who didn’t know the background of the stone. He underwent his work with no concerns. Indeed, he succeeded to remove the flaw from the precious stone much to the king’s satisfaction.
The surgeon continued and explained to the Rebbe and that such an analogy has already happened in real life. The wife of Napoleon, the glorified ruler of France, was in the pangs of labour and all the midwives who were called to assist her refused, for they were concerned that due to their excitement to deal with their queen, they won’t succeed in dealing with her correctly and they will be punished. So, what did they do? They called a midwife from the village who didn’t know who was giving birth. Indeed, that simple village midwife assisted her in her birth with ease.
“Likewise, in this case,” continued the surgeon to the Rebbe, “Generally this is a straightforward operation that I do daily and with great success. But this time knowing that we are dealing with the great Rebbe’s son-in-law, I was overcome with great excitement and it was difficult for me to undertake the operation correctly. And so the complication arose and in the end Baruch Hashem everything worked out, and the operation was successful.”
Likewise, with the golden Menorah. Moshe Rabbeinu heard the command to fashion the Menorah beaten from one block from Hashem Himself! He understood the depths of its secrets and the tremendous sanctity of the Menorah, its base, stem, [decorative] cups, spheres and flowers, and precisely because of that he was overcome with great unnatural excitement, therefore he was challenged to make the Menorah with all its details and fine points. Not so with Betzalel who hadn’t reached the level of Moshe, so he didn’t find it difficult and was successful to fashion the Menorah as requested.