|VaYakhel 5769 - Called and Equipped|
by Rabbi Russ Resnik
And Moses said to the children of Israel, "See, the Lord has called by name Bezalel son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and he has filled him with the Ruach of God, in wisdom and understanding, in knowledge and all manner of workmanship . . ." (Ex. 35:30-31)
"Calling" was something I heard a lot about in my early years as a follower of Yeshua, but I don't hear this term as much nowadays, at least in Messianic Jewish circles. This change of terminology may reflect a couple of other changes among us, which are mostly for the good. First, we have moved away from today's hyper-individualism, which has invaded the religious world, so that we think of a relationship with God almost entirely in terms of our own individual experience and quest for meaning. Instead, we have returned to a more biblical emphasis on community. Second, we in the Messianic Jewish community have increased our emphasis on tikkun olam, the Jewish concept of repairing the world in which we live. This emphasis includes a sense that one can fulfill a divine mission in all spheres of life, not just in what is called "ministry."
On the other hand, it is not good to swing so far in this direction that we neglect the clear instances of special, individual calling that we see in Scripture. Perhaps the time has come to rekindle a sense of calling within our community, especially among our younger members, who are in the position of choosing a direction and purpose in life. I am not interested in seeing the pendulum swing back in the direction of exalting individual professional ministry, but just in restoring balance. Scripture emphasizes community and the wholeness of God's creation as the venue for service to him. But it also emphasizes the transformative individual encounter with God that can change everything.
An example comes in this week's parasha, as the Lord calls Bezalel "by name." To underline this aspect of calling, the Torah names him "Bezalel son of Uri son of Hur of the tribe of Judah"-a highly individualized and specific calling. We do not need to receive such a dramatic calling before we begin our service to God. I believe the Scriptures themselves provide adequate direction and inspiration to get us moving, as Paul reminded Timothy, "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work" (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Nevertheless, I also believe that God calls men and women in personal ways into his service, just as he did with Paul himself.
Note that the Lord called Bezalel before the incident of the Golden Calf, at the culmination of his instructions for building the tabernacle and its equipment (Ex. 31:2-3). Here in VaYakhel, after the tragic detour of the Golden Calf, when it is time to turn to the actual building of the tabernacle, Moses reports this earlier calling of Bezalel to the Israelites, thus activating it. The first step in moving forward from the blueprint of the tabernacle to actually constructing it is to call out the master builder. The individual, Bezalel ben Uri ben Hur, is essential to the vast communal scheme of establishing the place of worship in Israel. Likewise, we who are trying to actively service the Lord may recognize the task or project we have to accomplish, may develop a plan, and may even amass resources, but successful execution depends on those called by name to accomplish it.
Finally, it is not just Bezalel as Bezalel, but Bezalel filled with "the Ruach of God, in wisdom and understanding, in knowledge and all manner of workmanship" who is essential to the project. The first thing he is called to is not the work itself, but becoming filled with the spirit. Before he becomes an agent for transforming raw materials into the holy place, he must be transformed in a holy process himself. Likewise, Paul, who is called as I mention above, is called not only to "be a chosen vessel," but "to be filled with the Ruach ha-Kodesh, the Holy Spirit" (Acts 9:15-17).
Individual calling and individual infilling are essential to the grand communal plan. Let us close, however, with a passage from my book Creation to Completion (Messianic Jewish Publications, 2006), commenting on Parashat VaYakhel.
Despite Bezalel's spiritual greatness, however, God does not call him alone, but raises up Aholiab at the same time [see Exodus 35:34]. Aholiab is from the least of the tribes, Dan, while Bezalel is from the greatest, Judah.
God said: 'Let him [Dan] come and be associated with him [Judah], so that no man may despise him or become arrogant, for both great and small are equal in God's sight; Bezalel comes of the tribe of Judah and Ahaliab from Dan, yet [the latter] is associated with him.' Rabbi Hanina said: The great and the small are equal, and one should never ignore his help. (Midrash Rabbah, Exodus 40.4)
Here is another hint of the great outpouring to come, for just as Bezalel is an agent of re-Creation, so are those who live in union with Messiah. In Messiah's spiritual outpouring, there is no longer great or small, but all are gifted and all need each other, as it is written, "But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all . . ." (1 Cor. 12:7)
Let's pray that this sense of calling grows among us, especially among our younger set, and that the Lord would fill many with his Ruach as he calls them to serve in the things that he wants to accomplish in the earth.
Rabbi Russ Resnik