Avidan Freedman

81/929 A Big ‘But’

There is no greater divine endorsement of human creativity in the Torah thus far than chapter 31 of Shemot, which introduces us to Betzalel, chief architect of the Mishkan, and his staff. Not only are his artistic skills a reflection of the divine spirit he has been filled with, but also “in the heart of every wise-hearted person [God] has given wisdom.” As a malach is a divine messenger, their melacha, their labor, is art in response to the divine call, a return to God’s original mandate to humanity to “subdue the earth”, Rav Soloveitchik’s Adam I who is “a creative aesthete…[who] fashions ideas with his mind and beauty with his heart” (Lonely Man of Faith, p.18).

But the Torah doesn’t let the excitement of the human creative endeavor go unchecked. It stops it short with a decisive ‘ach’. It’s a big ‘but’ which reiterates the mitzvah of Shabbat, with an emphasis on the words so central to the Mishkan- asah and melacha. Why is Shabbat being mentioned here? The Talmud explains that it’s in order to teach us that the building of the Mishkan does not override the laws of Shabbat.  The message: as divine and important as your work may be, there is no human activity which can’t be put on hold. Because if it can’t, it means that the work is the master and that you are the slave, and God didn’t take us out of Egypt in order to remain slaves.


This is my own little insight about the 929 chapter of the day, in 300 words or so. I’d love to hear your comments and start a conversation

What’s 929? A near-impossible challenge of consistency. A song of Jewish unity. A beautiful project worth checking out. Learn more at

About the Author
Avidan Freedman is the co-founder and director of Yanshoof (, an organization dedicated to stopping Israeli arms sales to human rights violators, and an educator at the Shalom Hartman Institute's high school and post-high school programs. He lives in Efrat with his wife Devorah and their 5 children.
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