Living Up to Our Names
God names Bezalel, giving him inspiration to lead.
In the Shadow of God
The Zohar offers an explanation of Bezalel's name that contradicts the one in the Midrash. The Zohar claims that Bezalel, which literally translates to "in the shadow of God," is not a name the head craftsman receives at the beginning of time, but rather a title that he earns upon completion of his commissioned project. Applying the Zohar's explanation to the introduction of Bezalel, we would read the verse as "Behold, I have designated that the name of the person to work in this holy endeavor should at completion be called Bezalel -- in the shadow of God."
The end of Bezalel's job description gives us a clue as to how this artist and builder achieves the status of living "in the shadow of God." The Torah tells us that Bezalel is responsible for not only directing the construction, but also teaching his crew. We may wonder what role teaching plays in the naming of an artisan.
In the words of Robert Maynard Hutchins, the former head of the Encyclopedia Britannica, "The object of education is to prepare the young to educate themselves throughout their lives." Bezalel is called upon to serve as a teacher so that the Israelites can learn as much about the artisan's craftsmanship as the leader's responsibility to his community. By inspiring his or her constituents to live up to their own names by reaching their potential, Bezalel earns the designation of working "in the shadow of God."
The circumstances surrounding the introduction of Bezalel remain shrouded in some confusion, yet his name truly articulates the mission of a leader. While Bezalel merits living up to his name by working "in the shadow of God," his true mission was to teach others how to find the shelter of God's presence by living up to their own names. Today by striving to reach our potential and live up to our names as Jews, each one of us can enter into the shadow of God.
Anne Bernays asserts in The Language of Names that "our name is our passport to wherever it is we need to go." Thinking back to my conversation on the plane to Israel, I realize now that my Hebrew name, Simcha, happiness, has always represented the ultimate destination.
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