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Two Minutes of Torah

>Two Minutes of Torah: Parashat Vayakahel (Exodus 35:20-35) – Those who really can … teach

>Recently I was registering for an internet website, and as is often the way with these sites, there were a number of security questions. For this particular portal I was asked the name of my favourite actor or actress, my favourite film, and my favourite teacher. For the first two answers I had to take a bit of time to think about my answer, but with the final question there was not a moment of hesitation, I carefully wrote down the name “Mr. Judd” (I won’t tell you the other two answers just in case you are ever trying to hack into my system).

Mr. Judd was the debating and public speaking teacher at my secondary school. I wanted to get involved with debating from my first year at the school; I enjoyed the challenge, but while I was enthusiastic, I had a lot to learn. Together with Mrs Gleeson they moulded me into a competent public speaker and debater – in the process they also helped me to grow and develop into a much more confident young man. I have a lot to thank them both for. While at school I often wondered what had compelled Mr. Judd to become a teacher, in my eyes he could have done anything he had wanted, and I was always curious about what had made him want to be a teacher.

Our society can often be quite cruel to those who decide to pursue a career in teaching, the regular (and grossly unfair) refrain is: ‘those who can do, those who can’t teach’. I am not sure who we have to ‘thank’ for this line, but I feel that absolutely no gratitude is due. I am also conscious of the fact that the title Rabbi is about being a teacher.

In this week’s Torah portion we begin the task of building the Tabernacle in the wilderness, and we are introduced to Bezalel, the man who will lead the building project. ‘And Moses said to the people of Israel, See, Adonai has called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah’ (Exodus 35:30). This is the second time when we read about Bezalel as the man who will actually be in charge of building the Tabernacle.

Both in Exodus 31 and Exodus 35 the choice of Bezalel appears to be as a result of the divine gifts which God has given him: ‘And God has filled him with the spirit of God, in wisdom, in understanding, and in knowledge, and in every kind of workmanship’ (Exodus 35:31, with almost the exact same text in Exodus 31:3). Bezalel has a gift from craftsmanship, and as a result he is an appropriate choice for the construction of God’s dwelling place on earth.

However, in this week’s Torah portion, when Bezalel is about to actually begin the work of building the Tabernacle, we learn a new fact about him: ‘And God has put in his heart that he may teach’ (Exodus 35:34). Bezalel was not just chosen because of his craftsmanship ability, but also because he would be able to teach others. Bezalel was selected because he would be able to engage the entire Israelite community in the project by sharing his skills and knowledge as a teacher.

Bezalel shows that those who can do, but those who really can teach. He demonstrates for us an ability not just to be skilled but to rise up to the next level of sharing his gift with others, and imparting knowledge to the community. I think Mr. Judd was a lot like Bezalel; he shared his skills for debate and public speaking so that others could follow his good example, and learn from his experience.

We need to pursue a new turn of phrase: ‘Those who can do, and those who really can teach.’

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