There are people who are born with incredible natural talents – athletes who excel at every sport, inventors who innately know how to create and artists who are able to transform the mundane into the beautiful. Betzalel, the great-grandson of Miriam and Caleb, was such an artisan.

See, I have called by name Betzalel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the Tribe of Judah, and I have filled him with the spirit of God, in wisdom and in understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship to devise skilful works, to work in gold and in silver and in brass and in the cutting of stones for setting and in the carving of wood, to work in all manner of workmanship… (Exodus 31:1-5).

Because of his natural abilities, Betzalel was appointed by God (along with an assistant, Oholiab the son of Ahisamach) to head the construction of the Mishkan (Tabernacle).

The Talmud mentions that at the time that Betzalel was given this great task, he was 13 years old (Sanhedrin 69b).  Perhaps this is why the Talmud records that God asked Moses if he felt that Betzalel was acceptable. When Moses said that he was acceptable since he was God’s choice, God told him to check with the nation. The Children of Israel responded positively, as had Moses (Talmud Brachot 55a).

Betzalel’s name means “In the shadow of God.” According to the Talmud, God told Moses to ask Betzalel to make the Mishkan (Tabernacle), ark and vessels. When Moses relayed these instructions to Betzalel, he reversed the order. Betzalel actually questioned why one would build vessels without the Mishkan to put them and then said to Moses: “‘Can it be that the Holy One, blessed be He, said to you, Make the Mishkan, an ark and vessels?’ Moses replied: ‘Perhaps you were in the shadow of God and knew!’” (Ibid.)

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