Gleanings from Ki Tisa

This week’s parasha, Ki Tisa, Exodus 30:11 – 34:35, is crammed full of material to think upon and internalize. Early in the parasha, we read about the appointment of Betzalel and Oholiab to oversee the construction of the Mishkan (Tabernacle) (31:2-7). It is noteworthy that before these two men were appointed to serve, they had already been prepared for the work by HaShem. Moses was also preprepared for his role in leading the Children of Israel long before the event, first by growing up in Pharoah’s court and then on the plains of Midian, tending his father-in-law’s sheep. It was only after the training period that HaShem called out to him from the fiery bush and set him on the path that would eventually see the promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob fulfilled as Bnei-Israel entered into and settled the land of Canaan. 

In his letter to the Philippians, Rav Shaul wrote, “I am sure of this very thing—that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the Day of Messiah Yeshua (Philippians 1:6). When reading this verse, one often focuses on the completion aspect, but maybe the beginning is more important, “He who began a good work….” Rav Shaul recognized that not only did God empower us to finish the work, but he also began the work within us. While the typical understanding of this verse deals with salvation and the resulting life of faith, in light of HaShem’s preparation of Moses, Betzalel and Oholiab for the work they were called to do, one can see that God prepares those he calls. 

Another important aspect to note is that Betzalel and Oholiab each were working in their area of expertise, their gifts in overseeing the construction of the Mishkan according to HaShem’s design.  At the end of Exodus 31:6 is written, “Within the hearts of all who are wise-hearted I have placed skill, so that they may make everything that I have commanded you….” In the wilderness, the Mishkan and all of its parts were constructed and properly fit together because of (1) the divine plan, (2) the skilled individuals gifted and called to the work, and (3) the skills and desire to complete the work that HaShem placed in peoples’ hearts. It was a community effort led by those empowered and skilled by HaShem. 

Turning to Rav Shaul once again, listen to the analogous comparison of our physical bodies to the body of Messiah.

For just as the body is one and has many parts, and all the parts of the body—though many—are one body, so also is Messiah. … For the body is not one part, but many. … If they were all one part, where would the body be? But now there are many parts, yet one body. … Now you are the body of Messiah, and members individually. (1 Corinthians 12:12, 14, 19-20, 27)

One body, many parts, and each part fulfilling its own function and purpose. 

Several years ago while visiting friends in Switzerland, I learned that in 2000, the EU adopted the official motto Unity in Diversity to describe the diverse social, cultural, and linguistic aspects of the Union. Some attribute the concept of unity in diversity to the teachings of the 12th-century Sufi philosopher Ibn al-‘Arabi. While not taking anything away from either the EU organizers or Ibn al-‘Arabi, I believe I can safely say that Rav Shaul had the idea of unity in diversity in mind when he spoke of the physical body with its many parts. A properly functioning body cannot function if it were only an eye, or a foot, or a heart, or whatever part one chooses to consider. Only when all the individual parts are working together does the body function correctly. Rav Shaul applies this analogy to the body of Messiah by stating, 

God has put into His community first emissaries, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then healings, helps, leadership, various kinds of tongues. All are not emissaries, are they? All are not prophets, are they? All are not teachers, are they? All do not work miracles, do they? All do not have gifts of healing, do they? All do not speak in tongues, do they? All do not interpret, do they? (1 Corinthians 12:28-30)

I believe these “offices” mentioned by Rav Shaul are the Moseses, Betzalels, and Oholiabs in the body of Messiah. The rank-and-file members of the body are made up of those who are “wise-hearted” in whom HaShem places the desire and willingness to serve and be a part of the body. And it is when the Moses, Betzalel, and Oholiab and all rank-and-file work together the body of Messiah functions as a healthy body. 

It is necessary to realize that not everyone is a Moses, Betzalel, or Oholiab. Years ago, a Bible school professor described the body of Messiah as one made of porcelain and then went on to talk about fine porcelain dishes, figurines, various pieces of laboratory equipment and electrical insulators. These four items are each very important at specific times and situations. The professor then asked the class if they knew of another item made of porcelain that is used more often than any of the three mentioned. Interestingly, no one guessed the item the professor had in mind, even though they used it at least once every day and usually more often than that. Can you guess what it is? A toilet. The professor reminded the class that they could do without porcelain dinnerware, but it was much less likely that they could do without a toilet on a daily basis. He then quoted Rav Shual.

On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be less important are indispensable. (1 Corinthians 12:22)

The bottom line then is that there are no indispensable members in the body as each of us has a part to play. So, whether one is a Moses or a Betzalel or a seamstress sowing the curtains of the Mishkan, or the one responsible for cleaning up after the services are over, the words of Wendy and Mary’s song rings true.

We really do need each other
Like the earth needs the falling rain
We really do need one another
Cause if I didn’t have you, it just wouldn’t be the same.

All Scripture references are from the Tree of Life (TLV) Translation of the Bible. Copyright © 2015 by The Messianic Jewish Family Bible Society.

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