Thursday, March 15, 2012

Divinity: A Creation From Man

Parsha Vayakhel - Pekudei: Shem The Master Craftsman!
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Parashas Vayakhel – Pekudei: The Mishkan – A Throwback to Shem

In this week’s Torah Portions we are introduced to a new character, a craftsman in the Torah, one who makes us think back to one who we may be able to call the original Craftsman: Shem [son of] Noah. [0] Our new character is none other than Betzalel [son of] Uri [son of] Hur of the Tribe of Judah. What makes Betzalel a truly inspiring figure, is the manner of the speech associated with his craft as given by Hashem:[1] “A Man of Wise – Heart, that Hashem gave him Wisdom and the ability to convey his Wisdom, to know how to make the [Melacha] (Hebrew term for Spiritual Work; of the 39 Labors that are forbidden on Shabbat are derived from Betzalel’s Creative Labor) that would be used in the creation of the Mishkan (Tabernacle)” and “See Hashem has proclaimed by name (literally with Shem!), Betzalel…he filled him with “Ruach Elokim” (Spirit – of God! The highest level of Divine Inspiration; the same term used in God’s Creating the Universe in Bereishit), with Wisdom and the Knowledge to give over his intellectual insight, and with every spiritual labor (Melacha).” Being that the Mishkan was created with these 39 essential labors, the Mishkan becomes a microcosm of Hashem’s Creation. [2] The Midrash states that Betzalel’s greatness was embedded in his very name, as Moses told him: “You truly do exist in the ‘Shadow of God’ (the literal translation of his name).”[3] The gift of Betzalel’s craft, based on this term “Melacha”, is that he built the vessels and the Mishkan with the degree as if they were Divinely orchestrated. To put it simply, he understood how with the command of Hashem, to reproduce Powers of Creation by the Word of God. But let us not forget the first time that we ever saw such craftsmanship: Shem! [4]
When Hashem gave the command to Noah to construct the Ark due to Pre-Flood evil, people tend to forget that Shem was right alongside his Righteous father, and was not taking the role of sidekick, rather as partner in the Ark’s “Creation.” We see this clearly, in the Midrash, as it chooses to employ the usage of this term “Melacha” to describe Shem’s contributions. [5]
Now that we have made a comparison in vernacular with Betzalel and Shem, a new spiritual light may be cast upon Shem by what the Torah tells us of Betzalel, if indeed Shem has the “Power of Melacha” and all of its implications. Remember, that when the Torah introduces us to Betzalel, the Torah refers by means of hinting “I have called ‘with Shem’- Betzalel…” As the very next sequence [6] will suggest, this level of Divine Inspiration that Hashem filled Betzalel with is termed “Ruach Elokim” – The Spirit of God. It is said that there are 32 mentions of the Name of God “Elokim” in Bereishit [7], which refer to the 32 pathways of Intellect, or Higher Wisdom. Thus with Betzalel’s intellectual gifts from Hashem, the powers of Creation are manifest, and allow him to create and express this Divinity. So we find by Shem, by association and hints within the passage of Betzalel, that he too has the powers invested in Betzalel to harness Divinity as comes along with the commandments of God. One should not be surprised to realize that the entire exchange with Noah and the Ark is predicated on God’s command. With Betzalel it is quite clear that Hashem orchestrated these gifts of intellect for the sake of constructing the Mishkan, whereas with Shem, it is not clear that Hashem bestowed upon him for the sake of the Ark’s construction. We see from this that there are two distinct ways to reach a level of supreme Holiness: God makes you Holy for his personal desire to bring about a revelation in the World (Moses’ Prophecy came from this level) or one can rise up and become exceptionally Holy, essentially reaching levels of possibility and sanctifying them from one’s own power and determination of soul. If these levels were possible but not within reach, it would seem rather redundant, thus we have Shem who actually became the image of Man that Hashem had desired for Mankind, as Shem is termed, ”Shem The Great.”[8]
The practical application of this knowledge is that this creative power, “Melacha”, is the spiritual labor that the World is built on. Thus everything we come into contact is a product of Melacha. The soil we tread upon, people we talk to, places we go; the entire structure of reality “becomes” creation. And even beyond this, we can gain insight into Light itself, as the Kabbalah states that Creation is none other than descended levels of Light. [9] With knowledge of Light, we can start to make “pictures” in our minds, of spiritual concepts, from associations of this World. This is what a concept truly is: Physical Light, crafted into something that we can perceive. Such is the nature of Shem, his intellect, and his knowledge of Melacha. He was able to perceive the Divinity of this World emanating conceptually, into a sort of spiritual technology, one that can be harnessed and employed. This would be the practical element of reaching exulted levels from Torah defined intellect: to view life as vessels of Creation. An example would be to cease viewing life as random and chaos, and cultivate it into a Divine experience. Upon cultivation, the Divinity within can be nurtured, allowing one to help the Creation process by being an agent of Holiness. One could exchange indifference with an understanding heart or miscommunication with a sharing of souls. The underlying premise is that entire World is macrocosmic abode of God that caters to His imminence. We, as Man, have the gift and luxury of serving in this domain.
Thus we have Betzalel being Blessed by Divine Intellect that he uses to construct the Mishkan, as he employs the powers invested in Creation. This would be an overly simplistic way to say, that Betzalel had the gift to bring Holiness into the World, as coming from Man and not from the six days of Creation as was the rest of Creation, as this is the basic premise of a Third and Final Holy Temple that will stand in Jerusalem upon the arrival of the Messiah. With this in mind, how now do we envision Shem?
Shem can now be seen as the essence of a Holy Man. His labors in the Ark can be seen that the Ark itself was defined as Holy, and its survival was by its means to merge with Creation on a Divine level. The service within the Ark, the Kindness performed, of which this New World is built upon along with Acts of Righteousness, were Divinely carried out by Shem in the Ark. The Torah that Shem taught would then be the Torah from a Creational standpoint, originating from the Silent Speech within the Mind of God. [10] Shem’s knowledge of how the World works, to find a potential Abraham, was made possible by perceiving Divine Emanation unfolding within God’s Plan of Creation. Ultimately, Shem had the gift and election of manifesting God’s Will into Creation, as a craft, as it was Shem who orchestrated the coming of the forefathers and gave over to them the Torah that would one day be the Revelation of Sinai – only now, there would be a Nation standing there to receive the Torah. [11]
It is fitting, that when we speak of master craftsmen, we should directly aim our minds and hearts directly where it all began: with Shem [son of] Noah. It says that when the World was created after the Flood, it was built upon kindness and righteousness. Noticed the word, “built”, seems to imply that there was a builder. However, this type of building was out of the hands of God, for it had fallen by Divine Will into the hands of God. This time, as opposed to Pre-Flood, it would be built correctly and built to last. The Craftsmanship can be attributed to Shem. Thus when the Torah says that Hashem was a Priest to God Above – Where is Shem’s Temple to serve in? To Shem, Creation is the Temple of God, and nobody has ever served that Temple, quite like Shem. It is fitting, that Shem will help finish “Building” this macrocosmic Temple in the Times of Redemption, as it says there are four Craftsmen in the Days of the Messiah, and Shem happens to be one of them…due to his merit of building the Divine Ark that not only saved the World, but built a new indestructible one in its place…one built on the foundation of Shem’s merit in reaching supreme intellect: Kindness and Righteousness. In the end, Betzalel may have been given the keys of Creation, but it will forever be Shem who found the door and walked through it. Perhaps it was not for naught that Shem found his way back to the Garden of Eden and merited to eat from the Tree of Life. [12] Where most see chaos, it is Shem who sees a cultivated path…as it is said, “Guard the Path of the Tree of Life…[13] Shem not only saw the path, but he paved it, and taught from it, into what would one day be crafted into the Torah of Moses. And like Betzalel, the path pave by Shem, is one that we can all learn from, as he had the unique gift of illuminating Light, so that every eye can see.

0) Sukkah 52b
1) Exodus 35: 30-31; 36:1-2
2) Numbers R. 15:10
3) According to Midrash, there was another aspect to the Mishkan. The Sages describe it as a microcosm of the universe, with each of its vessels corresponding to another part of the creation: the tent of the Mishkan paralleled the firmament, the menorah paralleled the sun and moon, the laver paralleled the oceans, and so on, through the days of creation.
4) Sukkah 52b
5) Midrash Rabbah Bereishit: 44
6) Exodus 36:1-2
7) Sefer Yetzirah 1:1
8) Tanna D’Bei Eliyahu
9) Arizal, Etz Chaim
10) Shemos Rabbah 2
11) Baal HaTurim Vayeitzei 28:10
12) Midrash (told over but source remains a mystery; various authors identify this Midrash)
13) Bereishit 3:24

Will the Four Craftsmen Appear in 5772 Before We Are Flood-Worthy?


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