This week’s portion is Ki Tisa which is centered around a character named Betzalel. Commentary on this portion gives us the words “mach shavot” or “skillful works that he had done”. The idea is that Adonai has given Betzelal particular skills as a craftsman that are to be used in the construction of the mishkan (tabernacle or tent of meeting).
But the word can also mean thoughts and intentions. How do we connect this. Moses says to the people with respect to the building of the mishkan: if your heart compels you to give, whatever gifts you give will be used in the construction. Digressing, people gave so much Moses had to tell them to stop. I have never experienced this in any house of worship!
The commentary tells us that Betzalel was approached by so many givers that the Holy Spirit gave him insight into their thoughts and intentions, into their motives for the giving. Oddly, just last week we were talking about anonymous giving, giving with thought of compensation of praise. And here we are looking at motives for giving. We go on to understand that commentary says that if the motives of the giver were pure, the gifts were used for the holiest objects in the tabernacle. If the motives of the giver were to garner praise, the gifts were put to more humble use; not given a place of honor.
So sometimes the spirit behind the mitzvah we do is as important as the act itself, sometimes I think it doesn’t matter as much. There is a rabbinic debate as whether you should do a mitzvah if your heart is not in it. One rabbi gives the example of feeding the poor – do it whether your heart is in it or not or the person won’t get fed. Another rabbi says what if we don’t feel like saying our prayers? We are commanded to pray and if we just do it, whether we feel like it or not, God will change our heart and we will feel our prayers in our heart.
Doing the mitzvah in spite of our weariness is different than doing it for the wrong reasons, for praise or recognition or compensation. Imagine being able to look at someone, in the way Betzalel could and through the agency of the Holy Spirit, see their intentions and thoughts. I don’t think we want to know, we might be disappointed. And if people could see ours, they might be disappointed in us.
THIS WEEK’S CHALLENGE
As you go about doing the mitzvot you are moved to do, God’s work, ask yourself what your motivation is. Do mitzvot in spirit of love.