Kindness by Design – Parshat Pikudei
Have you ever heard about Dr. Ben Carson, one of the world’s most famous neurosurgeons, candidate for president and former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development?
A bit from his biography:
“For a time, the likelihood of Benjamin S. Carson, Sr., M.D. fulfilling his childhood dream of becoming a physician seemed unlikely. Growing up in a single parent home with dire poverty, poor grades, a horrible temper, and low self-esteem appeared to preclude the realization of that dream until his mother, with only a third-grade education, challenged her sons to strive for excellence. She observed successful people and encouraged her sons to emulate their behaviors, including reading. This led to behavior changes which had a profound effect on their education. In 1973, Ben Carson graduated from Yale University. He went on to receive his M.D. from the University of Michigan Medical School.” (carsonscholars.org)
Despite the challenges in his youth and less than optimal surroundings, Ben Carson went on to make an indelible impact on the world of medicine.
Perhaps, in addition to his mother, Dr. Carson took inspiration from our parsha.
The Mishkan (Tabernacle) was a simple, yet elegant structure containing ornate holy vessels used for serving G-d.
As we know, Moshe was concerned about how to execute the construction of this edifice and all of its contents. To this, HaShem told Moshe that the construction would be overseen by Bezalel and Ohaliav, 2 masters of design.
While there is much written and spoken in regard to Bezalel, his origins and talent, we find less about Ohaliav.
What we do know is that he came from the tribe of Dan and was a partner with Bezalel in crafting the vessels and structure of the Mishkan.
The Midrash points out specifically the contrast between Bezalel, who descended from Yehuda, the “highest” of the tribes to Ohaliav, coming from Dan, considered to be the “lowliest”.
The Midrash (Shmot Rabba 40:4) says:
אמר רבי חנינא בן פזי: אין לך גדול משבט יהודה ואין לך ירוד משבט דן שהיה מן הלחינות ומה כתיב בו (בראשית, מ”ו, כ”ג) – ‘וּבְנֵי דָן חֻשִׁים’ אמר הקב”ה יבא ויזדווג לו שלא יהו מבזין אותו ושלא יהא אדם רוחו גסה עליו לפי שהגדול והקטן שוין לפני המקום. בצלאל משל יהודה ואהליאב מדן והוא מזדווג לו
Rabi Chanina Ben Pazi said: There was no tribe greater than Yehuda and no tribe lower than Dan…HKBH said I will come and pair (Bezalel and Ohaliav) so that they won’t disparage him and that no one should be haughty because the great and the small are equal before G-d. Bezalel is from Yehuda and Ohaliav from Dan and he was paired with him.
The gemara in ערכין (טז:) tells us that when Shlomo built the Beit HaMikdash, he too chose someone descended from the tribe of Dan, Chiram from Tzur.
The lesson should be obvious. In the Eyes of G-d, ALL of the tribes are equal. HaShem wanted the home for His Shechina to be built by people from “across the spectrum” of the Jewish nation.
One’s origin makes no difference when it comes to realizing his/her potential.
Bezalel descended from Miriam, Kalev, and Chur, “giants” of the nation all known for their self-sacrifice. One might think that Bezalel had it “in his blood”. Chazal, however, point out that Bezalel was great on his own without regard to his illustrious ancestors. On the flip side, Ohaliav came from a tribe not considered to be the “cream of the nation”. This did not stop him from achieving monumental things for his people.
How often do we concentrate on “yichus” (ancestry) rather than the person? Some of history’s most infamous were fathered by those of noble character while many heroes have humble beginnings.
Ben Azzai teaches us in Pirkei Avot (4:3)
הוּא הָיָה אוֹמֵר, אַל תְּהִי בָז לְכָל אָדָם, וְאַל תְּהִי מַפְלִיג לְכָל דָּבָר, שֶׁאֵין לְךָ אָדָם שֶׁאֵין לוֹ שָׁעָה
וְאֵין לְךָ דָבָר שֶׁאֵין לוֹ מָקוֹם:
He used to say: do not despise any person, and do not discriminate against anything, for there is no man that has not his hour, and there is no thing that has not its place.
As we see from Ohaliav, Dr. Ben Carson and so many others, it doesn’t matter where you came from as long as you know where you are going to.