Perhaps this is the message implied by the names of Bezalel son of Uri son of Hur. We begin in darkness, we move to light; but we then strive to live in the shadow of God, a world of shadows and hidden meanings, a world of wisdom and aestheticism, a world of reality and soulfulness.
Angel for Shabbat
We cannot rely on Somebody Else, on “the rabbis”, on “the community” on “the synagogue” to do what needs to be done. Each of us has a role to play. Each can give of our talents and resources to the best of our ability. Each can take personal responsibility and realize that Somebody Else isn’t available to do the work that needs to be done.
When we ultimately must come before the heavenly court and stand in judgment for our lives, what will we be asked? According to the Talmudic sage Rava (Shabbat 31a), a serious question will be: "did you conduct your business dealings faithfully?"
This week's maftir portion includes verses commanding us to obliterate the memory of Amalek, the classic arch-enemy of the people of Israel. Yet, the Torah also lists other peoples who oppressed the Israelites. The Egyptians enslaved us for centuries; the Edomites and Moabites harmed us--yet only Amalek is singled out for our eternal enmity.
Human greatness often entails loneliness and alienation. It is nurtured by successes and failures, by trials and errors. It is fostered in an environment of quiet thoughtfulness. The greatest people often are the most humble and self-effacing.
Somewhere within each of us is “a corner of certainty,” a hard kernel of identity that we abandon at our own peril. Alienation from others is painful. Alienation from oneself is disastrous.
The Talmud (Yoma 9b) suggests that the Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed due to the sin of sinat hinam, baseless hatred. Yet, “baseless” hatred seems to be rare, if not impossible. Whenever people hate, they don’t think their hatred is baseless.
For many centuries, Jews became accustomed to an attitude of passivity and defenselessness. They relied on prayers or on material gifts to those in power. In the modern period, Jews have added the strategy of political and military power. Our task today is to maintain a proper balance that includes all three dimensions: prayer, diplomacy, military strength..
It is really amazing how much calumny is aimed against the Jewish people. The basest lies are spread against us; the vilest charges are leveled against Israel. No matter what we do or how good we really are, it seems we are destined to be vilified.
Coming together as a mahaneh is our way of saving our lives. Coming together as an edah is our way of saving our way of life. Even when we are seemingly at peace, we must see the angels of Mahanaim and be prepared to defend our lives from enemies. Even when we are in the midst of battle, we must never lose sight of the angels connecting heaven and earth.