Sruli Fruchter
Sruli Fruchter

Parshiyot Vayakhel-Pekudei: Making Our Careers Godly

New York City (Pixabay)

It can sometimes feel like we wear two different masks in our lives: one professional and “worldly” and the other Jewish and religious. These characterizations mean different things to us all, but the duality still remains in that life can feel disjointed, as if we play different roles during the day, be it college, a career, or parenting, and during our Jewish and religious living. In Parshiyot Vayakhel-Pekudei, the Torah speaks about Bezalel, an individual who beautifully integrates these seemingly disparate aspects of life into one, holistic model.

Parshiyot Vayakhel-Pekudei speak about the completion of the Mishkan (Tabernacle) and Bnei Yisrael’s role in its construction, which will be led by Bezalel. Moshe tells Bnei Yisrael, “See, YHVH has singled out by name Bezalel, son of Uri son of Hur, of the tribe of Yehudah. He has endowed him with a divine spirit of skill, ability, and knowledge in every kind of craft” (Shemos 35:30-31). There is no question that Bezalel is a man of stellar character, but there’s something especially interesting said about him in the Gemarah. In Masechet Berachot, Rav Yehuda says in the name of Rav, “Bezalel knew how to join the letters with which heaven and earth were created” (55a). This unique description suggests a lot regarding Bezalel as a model in the Torah.

Rabban Gamliel the son of Rabbi Yehudah HaNasi said, “Excellent is the study of the Torah when combined with a worldly occupation, for both of them will cause sin to be forgotten” (Pirkei Avot 2:2). When we take the Torah, our guide to living a holy life, and we complement it with a profession, which can stress, distract, and consume our very lives, we yield something excellent. Perhaps, then, this is what defined Bezalel in the Gemarah, as he took his gifts of wisdom and architectural mastery and manifested them into something godly: the Mishkan. He took his skills and talents and purposed them through the lens of Torah.

While the Mishkan is inherently tied to godliness, Bezalel’s situation is still incredibly applicable to our own lives. Every aspect of life is an opportunity to bring Hashem into our lives and peel back the layers that conceal the godliness within — not just in overtly religious experiences. When a banker acts with integrity and honesty, trying to help people with their financial interests, is their work absent kindness and compassion? When a lawyer seeks truth and justice, is there no religious value at play? The same can be found in and asked about a photographer, graphic designer, or doctor; every profession is an opportunity to channel love, goodness, respect, peace, and communal living, and by extension, Hashem.

Rav Kook writes, “All people must understand that they are being called to serve in a way that is unique to their intellectual and emotional personalities, according to each person’s unique root soul … Indeed, when one walks down this secure path, one’s own unique trail, in a way of righteousness that is unique to oneself, one is filled with the strength of life and the joy of spirituality. The light of God will shine upon such a person” (Shmoneh Kevatzim 4:6).[1]

Hashem gifted us all with abilities and experiences unique to ourselves. Judaism is not monolithic, and there is no “one size fits all,” especially with our professional aspirations. To make our careers godly is to merely shift our perspective and see that, in truth, every moment is an opportunity to illuminate the world with Hashem’s divine light. Like Bezalel, in our careers, we, too, can learn to join the letters with which heaven and earth were created.

[1] As translated by Rabbi Ari Ze’ev Schwartz in “The Spiritual Revolution of Rav Kook,” p. 18

About the Author
Sruli Fruchter studied for one year at Yeshivat Orayta and is now studying International and Global Affairs at Yeshiva University. He enjoys writing on a spectrum of topics, specifically on the weekly parsha.
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