Halacha for Friday 7 Adar 5781 February 19 2021

Parashat Terumah - The Difference Between Moshe and Betzalel [Understanding Why Betzalel Was Able to Make the Menorah, Whilst Moshe Couldn’t]

From HaGaon Rav Zevadia HaCohen Shlit”a, The Head of the Batei Din in Tel Aviv
(translated by our dear friend Rav Daniel Levy Shlit”a, Leeds UK)

This Shabbat we shall read in the weekly Parashah the donations the Bnei Yisrael gave to the building of the Mishkan. This included, “gold, silver, copper, sky-blue [wool], dark red [wool], [wool dyed with] crimson worm, linen, goat’s wool, reddened rams’ skins, blue-processed skins, acacia wood, oil for the lamp, spices for the anointing oil and the sweet-smelling incense, and sardonyxes and other precious stones for the ephod and breastplate” (Shemot 25:3).

Amongst the Mishkan’s utensils was also a golden Menorah. Therefore is states in the Parashah, “Make a Menorah out of pure gold. The Menorah shall be formed by hammering it. Its base, stem and [decorative] cups, spheres and flowers must be hammered out of a [single piece of gold]” (Shemot 25:31).

The Midrash Rabba (15:9) states: Hashem said to Moshe, “You shall fashion a pure golden Menorah,” Moshe asked Hashem, “How shall I make it? Hashem said to him, “You shall fashion it beaten out!” Moshe found it difficult to envisage how it would be made. Hashem took a Menorah of fire and showed it to Moshe. He was further bewildered with its making. Hashem said to him, “Go to Betzalel and he will fashion it.” He spoke to Betzalel and immediately he fashioned the Menorah.

It begs the question, how can it be? Moshe, the father of all prophets, is commanded by Hashem to fashion the Menorah and Hashem even shows him a fiery image of the Menorah and yet Moshe doesn’t succeed in understanding it. Yet Betzalel is told once and he immediately succeeds? What happened to Moshe Rabbeinu?

In order to comprehend this, we will preface it with a story of the Gerrer Rebbe’s son-in-law. He became ill and required complex surgery. He was admitted to the hospital in the city of Warsaw.  The Rebbe hired an experienced and well-known professor in Warsaw who would perform the operation on his son-in-law. However, during the operation, they informed the Rebbe that there is a complication and that the operation will take longer than anticipated.

The Rebbe heard this and immediately went to the hospital to enquire after his son-in-law’s welfare and ascertain why there is a complication in the operation. The Rebbe met the great professor and asked him, “Your honour is great and well experienced, why the complication in the operation?”

The surgeon replied, “To what is this comparable? To a great king that had a precious stone, large and very rare in its splendour. The value of the stone was extremely high. After some time, a small flaw appeared darkening the gem and devalued it. All the experts, that the king sought to remedy the problem with this precious stone and to remove its flaw, knew that this stone is very dear to the king. As such, they refrained from dealing with it, in case in the process of dealing with the king’s precious stone, they won’t deal with it correctly and the stone will likely shatter, causing untold damage and they will then have to face the consequences. What did they do? They gave the stone to a simple artisan who didn’t know the background of the stone. He underwent his work with no concerns. Indeed, he succeeded to remove the flaw from the precious stone much to the king’s satisfaction.

The surgeon continued and explained to the Rebbe and that such an analogy has already happened in real life. The wife of Napoleon, the glorified ruler of France, was in the pangs of labour and all the midwives who were called to assist her refused, for they were concerned that due to their excitement to deal with their queen, they won’t succeed in dealing with her correctly and they will be punished. So, what did they do? They called a midwife from the village who didn’t know who was giving birth. Indeed, that simple village midwife assisted her in her birth with ease.

“Likewise, in this case,” continued the surgeon to the Rebbe, “Generally this is a straightforward operation that I do daily and with great success. But this time knowing that we are dealing with the great Rebbe’s son-in-law, I was overcome with great excitement and it was difficult for me to undertake the operation correctly. And so the complication arose and in the end Baruch Hashem everything worked out, and the operation was successful.”

Likewise, with the golden Menorah. Moshe Rabbeinu heard the command to fashion the Menorah beaten from one block from Hashem Himself! He understood the depths of its secrets and the tremendous sanctity of the Menorah, its base, stem, [decorative] cups, spheres and flowers, and precisely because of that he was overcome with great unnatural excitement, therefore he was challenged to make the Menorah with all its details and fine points. Not so with Betzalel who hadn’t reached the level of Moshe, so he didn’t find it difficult and was successful to fashion the Menorah as requested.

Shabbat Shalom!

Ask the Rabbi


8 Halachot Most Popular

The Mitzvah of Counting the Omer

The Torah states (Vayikra 21, 15): “And you shall count for yourselves, from the day following the Shabbat, from the day the waved Omer offering is brought, seven complete weeks shall they be.” Our Sages (Menachot 65b) have a tradition that the “day following the Shabbat” ref......

Read Halacha

Question: How many “Kezayit”s (olive’s volume) of Matzah must one consume during the Pesach Seder?

Answer: One is obligated to eat altogether three “Kezayit”s of Matzah during the Pesach Seder. Every Kezayit amounts to approx. 30 grams of Matzah. Nevertheless, there is room for stringency to eat four or even five “Kezayit”s of Matzah, as we shall now explain. The Order......

Read Halacha

The Laws of Tying and Untying on Shabbat

The Mishnah in Masechet Shabbat (73a) lists the thirty-nine forms of forbidden work on Shabbat. The Mishnah includes “tying and untying” among them. One who ties or unties a knot on Shabbat is tantamount to having kindled a fire or planted wheat on Shabbat. There are several detailed ......

Read Halacha

What Constitutes a “Permanent” or “Professional” Knot

In previous Halachot we have explained that is forbidden to tie a “permanent” knot on Shabbat, i.e. a knot which is not meant to be untied in the near future. It is likewise forbidden to tie a “professional” knot on Shabbat, i.e. a knot which requires some skill to tie. Howev......

Read Halacha


Chol Ha’Mo’ed

The days between the first and seventh days (outside of Israel between the second and eighth days) of the Pesach holiday and the days between the first day of Sukkot and the holiday of Shemini Atzeret (outside of Israel between the second day of Sukkot and Shemini Atzeret) are called “Chol Ha&......

Read Halacha

Knots Forbidden To Be Tied on Shabbat by Rabbinic Enactment and Those Permitted to be Tied

In the previous Halacha we have explained that two of the forbidden works on Shabbat are tying and untying a knot. We have likewise discussed some forms of knots which are forbidden to be tied on Shabbat by Torah law. We shall now discuss several forms of knots which are forbidden to be tied as a re......

Read Halacha

Everything is Foreseen and Permission is Granted

Israeli Independence Day is celebrated today. Since we have discussed this topic several times in the past, we will not delve into this matter lengthily at this point. Let us just note that according to Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l, although one must show thanks to Hashem for removing the ......

Read Halacha

Separating the Tzitzit Strands

Question: My younger son wears a “Tallit Katan” (Tzitzit garment). When I see that the Tzitzit strands become entangled, may I untangle them on Shabbat? Answer: Before reciting a blessing on a Tallit or a Tallit Katan (Tzitzit garment), one must separate the Tzitzit strands from one a......

Read Halacha