I'm feeling completely uninspired this week; perhaps fitting since the parsha is about inspiration - the naming of Bezalel to make God's plans for the Tabernacle a reality. God cannot simply have random people do this work. Creating sacred spaces and objects takes more than talent, it takes inspiration. That is, it takes becoming filled with spiritual energy and direction. The inspired artist and artisan (both specifically named) has let himself become a vehicle for something outside himself. I know the feeling; sometimes when I read a poem I wrote a long time ago, I feel amazed that I wrote it, and remember little of the process, and I am far from greatness.
So feeling uninspired, I went back and found a d'var Torah I wrote three years ago for this parsha, and re-post it here. It's relevant in more than one way, since I am once again beginning to collect thoughts for this year's interfaith service at Netroots Nation.
As many of you know, I have been collecting words of inspiration for the service at Netroots Nation from people of all religious or philosophical traditions. We have gathered quite a collection, all of it interesting, and it's amazing how similar various traditions are in those beliefs that inspire us to tikkun olam, repairing the world.Shabbat shalom.
This week's parsha begins with a major symbol, both of the Jewish people, and of the light of wisdom in the world: the menorah, the seven-branched candlestick that illuminates the tabernacle in the desert, and later in the Temple.
But the menorah did not create itself, nor did God create it directly. There is an artist involved, named Bezalel. Bezalel received his specifications for the Tabernacle and its ritual objects from Moses, but he more than the other artisans who built all these things was led by the spirit of God in his work. God chose Bezalel as one with special gifts, who would be able to take the blueprint given to Moses and turn it into art. Could God have created the menorah himself? Of course. But in the world after creation, God works through human beings.
The blessing over bread blesses God who "brings forth bread from the earth." We are taught that this is to show us that God needs us to help him, to harvest wheat, and make flour, and bake it into bread. God is still bringing forth bread from the earth, but he is doing it through the farmer, the miller, the baker.
So the creative spirit that comes from the Creator enters humans who are led to create. They are in-spirited, or inspired as we now say. Isaac Luria taught that the six branches on either side of the menorah represent the six branches of human learning, while the center represents Torah. Human and divine knowledge are both necessary to light the world. God and science are not opposed to each other; rather, God supports science as the central stalk of the menorah supports the other six.
As I started collecting words from Kossacks that inspire them to work to make the world a better place, I received a message from Arnold Eisen, the Chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary which included these words, with which I close:
The Creator of the universe seeks human assistance in completing the work of Creation. The world is not good enough as it is, the Torah insists, and you and I can make it better. All of us are needed for this task: Jews and non-Jews, men and women, old and young. Everything that each and every one of us brings to the task is required: the sum total of our diverse experiences and learning, our skills and our relationships, our intelligence and our passion, all the arts and all the sciences: all our hearts, all our souls, all our might.