These and Those

Musings from Students of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem

[PCJE Dvar Torah] Passionate, Wise-hearted Artists

Posted on February 20, 2014 by Cara Abrams-Simonton

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carsimI love the imagery in Parashat Vayakhel. I love the introduction of Betzalel, Oholiab and the wise-hearted artisans who build the Mishkan and its furnishings. And I love that the people give so many donations for the creation of these precious ornaments that both Betzalel and Oholiab call out to Moshe to get them to stop.

Can you imagine the two head craftsman being overwhelmed with riches such as gold, silver and copper; blue-, purple- and red-dyed wool; goat hair, spun linen, animal skins, wood, olive oil, herbs and precious stones?

Take a moment to visualize a group of divinely-inspired artisans working in a makeshift workshop in the middle of the desert… Now imagine floods of Israelites lining up with their arms full of precious materials… So much so that Moshe has to command the community to stop bring donations for the Mishkan. Pretty amazing, huh?

I find this scene unbelievable, miraculous and just beautiful.

Sometimes the scenes in Tanach are hard for me to connect with, even if I have such amazing imagery that I can visualize the scene, but I find that this scene of the Israelites bringing contributions to the divinely-inspired, wise-hearted craftsmen really speaks to me.

Why you ask? Because I simply love the arts. I love to appreciate beautiful creations. I love the care and attention that artisans, craftsmen and artists put into their creations.

xyyx0Picasso agonized over Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, his 1907 masterpiece, researching and sketching to prepare for the final oil painting.

yxxy0The Guggenheim Museum in Manhattan occupied the architect Frank Lloyd Wright for 16 years.

My college friend who was a fine arts major would spend hours in her studio, sometimes spending the night so that she could continue with her latest sculpture installation or large scale painting.

Artists fully commit themselves to their craft, bringing their wisdom, insight, knowledge and skill, just like Betzalel in our parashah. In ch. 35, v. 31 we learn that:
“God has imbued him (Betzalel) with the spirit of God, with wisdom, with insight, and with knowledge, and with [talent for] all manner of craftsmanship” – וַיְמַלֵּא אֹתוֹ רוּחַ אֱלֹהִים בְּחָכְמָה בִּתְבוּנָה וּבְדַעַת וּבְכָל מְלָאכָה

Even though each of these modern day artists did not experience throngs of Israelites bringing them their art and building supplies, they were all supported in varying degrees by their art-loving and art-funding communities. And so as you read Parashat Vayakhel this week, take a moment to reflect on the actions of those passionate, wise-hearted artists in your circles and think about how you can support them in their creative efforts. I’m not suggesting that you bring them your riches but rather that you pause to honor their commitment to their craft and to appreciate the beauty they bring into the word.