This week we read two Parshiot–Vayakhel and Pekudai. These two parshiot are the fulfillment of what was commanded in Parshat Terumah and Tetzaveh–namely the building of the Mishkan (Tabernacle) including the vessels and the outer structure as well as making the clothes of the Kohanim. In Parshat Vayakhel Moshe tells the Jews (35:30-31, 34) “See that Hashem has called in the name of Betzalel the son of Uri, the son of Chur, from the tribe of Yehudah (Judah) and has filled him with the spirit of Hashem and knowledge of all kinds of workmanship. And Hashem gave Betzalel the ability to teach, he and Ahaliav the son of Achisamach from the tribe of Dan.” Then in Parshat Pekudai it says (38:22-23) “And Betzalel did according to everything that Hashem commanded Moshe. And with him Ahaliav crafted, and embroidered the blue, scarlet, and linen materials.” The Torah makes it quite clear that both Betzalel and Ahaliav were the ones in charge of teaching and otherwise delegating various tasks to the artisans who built the Mishkan. And yet when the making of the vessels begins in Parshat Vayakhel, it says (37:1) “And Betzalel made the Aron (Ark),” and then throughout the rest of the parsha it always says “And he made,” in the singular form. If Betzalel was the key figure and essentially the one who seems to have done it all, why does the Torah tell us about Ahaliav, since it doesn’t mention the names of all the other artisans who helped? And if Ahaliav was in fact a major player, why does he seem have such a ‘back-of-the-scenes’ role?
Perhaps some further analysis as to who Ahaliav was can help us address these questions. Rashi notes that the fact that Ahaliav was from the tribe of Dan is important because Dan was from the lesser prestigious tribes–namely those who came from Bilhah or Zilpah (the former maidservants of Rachel and Leah) instead of from Rachel or Leah themselves. Conversely, Betzalel was from the tribe of Yehuda, the most prestigious of the tribes. Rashi says that Hashem purposely chose these two as a lesson to the Jews that everyone is equal, especially when it comes to building the Mishkan.
Another reason why Ahaliav’s being from the tribe of Dan is so important is because according to the Gemarra (Bava Batra 8) there should always be a minimum of two leaders over a community. An obvious reason for this is because one leader might not see every aspect of a situation and thus should have someone who can contribute another perspective. The tribe of Dan represents this idea more than the other tribes because regarding judges we are told in Pirkei Avot (Ethics of the Fathers 4:10) “Do not act as judge alone”. In Jewish court cases, there was a minimum of three judges presiding over a case. By having more than one perspective regarding the evidence presented, the judges could render the most just decision possible. And just as a King has advisors to help him render decisions, Betzalel (from the tribe of Kings) had Ahaliav (from the tribe of judges who know not to render a decision alone) as his advisor in building the Mishkan.
Futhermore, Kli Yakar notes that the names of the tribes Yehuda and Dan contain the two most common names of Hashem–namely “Hashem” and “Elokim”. The name “Hashem” always refers to Hashem’s attribute of “Rachamim–mercy”, while Elokim refers to “Din–justice”. The Hebrew letters forming the name “Yehuda” are “Yud, Hay, Vav, Daled and Hay.” The first, second, third and fifth letters spell out the name “Hashem”. The name “Dan” means “judge” and with a change in vowel the pronunciation is “Din–justice”. As to why this is so, Kli Yakar notes that in creating the world, Hashem brought together His attributes of Rachamim and Din. The Mishkan was built as a representation of the world and thus also had to incorporate a joining together of Rachamim and Din. The sacrificial service in the Mishkan also demonstrates this idea, since as a result of Hashem’s Rachamim a person who sinned can bring a sacrifice and thus have the Din removed. So the Mishkan had to be built by Betzalel and Ahaliav, who best represented this joining together of Din and Rachamim.
Kli Yakar takes this further by explaining who Ahaliav himself was. When trying to understand who someone is, analyzing his name is a good place to start. The name Ahaliav can be broken into two Hebrew words–“Ohel–tent” and “Av–father”. The Mishkan is also called the “Tent of Meeting” because Moshe and the Kohanim met Hashem there. The Mishkan was built as a “Tent” which would house the presence of our “Father”–namely Hashem. In addition, Ahaliav was the son of Achisamach, whose name can be broken into “Achi–sibling” and “Samach–nearby”. The purpose of the Mishkan was to bring siblings together. As to which siblings, Kli Yakar notes that the Jewish people are often referred to as Hashem’s brother or sister. For example, Hashem says regarding the Jews (Psalms 122:8) “For the sake of my brothers and friends I will speak of peace in your midst”. In addition, in Shir HaShirim (Song of Songs) Hashem often refers to us as His sister as in (5:2) “My sister, My beloved.” So we see that even from birth, Ahaliav’s destiny was to be involved with the Mishkan.
The attribute of Din is more hidden than Rachamim. The Rabbis tell us that Din is more associated with the spiritual world–namely the world which is more hidden, while Rachamim is more associated with this world–the more obvious one. Perhaps that’s why Ahaliav played such a “back-of-the-scene” role. Since he represented Din which is more hidden, his role would be less obvious than that of Betzalel, who represented Rachamim.
“Chazak Chazak V’nitchazayk–may we be strengthened to continue learning Torah”.