Parashat Vayakhel is the twenty-second weekly portion in the Torah and the tenth in the Book of Exodus (35:1-38:20). In it, the Israelites receive and fulfill the command to make the Tabernacle and its vessels.
Parashat Vayakhel is, in many ways, the mirror image of Parashat Teruma; many of the verses are almost identical, with nothing but the tense shifting. Nevertheless, we find some significant structural changes: here the building is described before the vessels which go inside it, and items such as the Incense Altar and the Laver are described based on where they will be located in the Mishkan.
The reason for this is that the focus is not on Moses or Aaron or even the Israelite community as a whole, but rather the generosity of those (men and women of all social classes) who volunteer to donate their raw materials and their raw talent: the generous and wise of heart and spirit. Two unique individuals are placed in charge of the work, at God’s command.
The first is Bezalel, grandson of Hur, from the Tribe of Judah. According to the Book of Chronicles, Hur is a cousin to Aaron’s father-in-law Amminadab. He appears earlier in Exodus (ch. 17) when he and Aaron support Moses’ hands on the mountaintop as they watch Joshua lead the fight against Amalek. When Moses and Joshua later ascend the mountain after the Revelation at Sinai, Aaron and Hur are left in charge (ch. 24). Hur then disappears from the text, amidst the chaos of the Golden Calf. Whatever side he fell on, the fact that his grandson, an artisan skilled in manipulating wood, stone and metal, will be the one to build God’s House shows how important it is to heal the nation after that destructive incident.
Far less is known about Bezalel’s number two, Oholiab from the Tribe of Dan. He is identified as a skilled weaver, embroiderer and couturier; but not much information is given about his family. Still, the fact that a scion of Judah, Jacob’s chosen heir for kingship, and a scion of Dan, the first among Jacob’s children from the handmaidens, are partners in this enterprise indicates a new era of cooperation. Indeed, Judah and Dan are born right after each other in the Book of Genesis. The cooperation between Bezalel and Oholiab, together leading a team of skilled artisans, signifies that the House of Israel must come together to build the House of God.
The portion from the Prophets is from the seventh chapter of the First Book of Kings. It describes King Solomon’s recruitment of an artisan by the name of Hiram, who goes on to direct the creation of the Temple and its vessels.