Rabbi Eliyahu Hoffmann
Ashes - To Err is Human - To Admit is Fine
Betzalel, son of Uri, son of Chur, of the tribe of Yehudah,
did everything that Hashem commanded Moshe. (38:22)
It does not say, "that which Moshe
commanded," but rather, "everything that
Hashem commanded Moshe." [This implies]
that even with regard to matters which his
master, Moshe, did not teach him, Betzalel's
thoughts were in accord with that which had
been said to Moshe at Sinai.
Moshe had commanded Betzalel to make the
furnishings first, and then build the Mishkan
[Tabernacle]. Betzalel said to him: "Normally,
one first builds a house, and then furnishes it!
[Perhaps Hashem commanded the opposite
order?]" Moshe said to him: "Indeed, as you
say, so I heard from the mouth of the Holy
One, Blessed be He. [Your name is Betzalel]
because you have been in Hashem's shadow
(Be-tzel Ke'l)! Indeed, this is what the Holy
One, Blessed be He, commanded me." [Rashi
quoting Gemara, Berachos 55a]
Moshe, commentators point out, admitted his error immediately. He
had reversed Hashem's instructions, and made no attempts to escape
blame. How often are we prone, when faced with error, to attempt to
defend our actions, instead of just saying, "I was wrong." As a
teacher, I am often put in the sticky situation of pointing a blaming
finger at a student. More often than not, their reaction will be to
immediately take up the defensive, trying to justify what they've done.
And more often than not, my reaction will be to tell them: "I wasn't
asking for excuses. 'I'm sorry' would do just fine." When they get the
message, a shy smile appears on their faces. "I'm sorry," they say. "It's
alright," I tell them. "Now sit back down."
Sometimes it is so much more difficult to say the simple words, "I'm
sorry," than to create the most intricate and elaborate excuses. How
many friendships and marriages have fallen apart over this simple yet
powerful concept. If Moshe, the greatest prophet ever to grace the
earth, can err, can't we all?
Interestingly, I was bothered by a different aspect of this Gemara. It
is all very well that Moshe made no attempts to cover-up his error
before Betzalel; yet why wasn't Moshe personally disturbed by his
lapse? After all, if Moshe could err with his prophecy, doesn't this call
into question everything that Moshe had taught? Who's to say that
this is the only place in which he erred? One would imagine that
Moshe would have been highly distressed by his mistake, yet no
distress is apparent. Why not?
A poor man once came to the renowned tzaddik, the Strikover
Rebbe, who had a reputation for performing the most wondrous and
amazing miracles. The man's daughter had already been engaged
twice, but when her father had been unable to provide the agreed-
upon nadon (dowry), the engagements had been broken. Now she
had become engaged once again, and her father desperately wanted
this marriage to go through.
The Rebbe told him to go home, and buy a lottery ticket - the
Ribbono Shel Olam would surely help him. The poor man
optimistically returned home, and bought a ticket, but the ticket did
not win. Although the father somehow managed to keep the
shidduch (engagement) afloat and marry his daughter off, the
Strikover Rebbe was so shaken by his "failure" the he refused to
accept any more petitioners for his blessings. A Rebbe's power, he
argued, is derived from the dictum of Chazal, our Sages (see Ta'anis
23a) that Hashem fulfills the will of a tzaddik. Obviously, he was not
Soon afterwards, R' Simcha Bunim of Pshischa came to Strikov to
visit the Rebbe. He was disturbed that the Rebbe had ceased
accepting the hundreds of petitioners who desperately seeked his
blessings over the apparent failure of one blessing.
"Strikover Rebbe," said R' Simcha Bunim, "tell me: How does one
reconcile that which we are taught, 'Hashem fulfils the will of a
tzaddik' with the pasuk in Iyov (Job 9:12), 'Who can tell Him what to
do!?' The explanation, however, is as follows: Hashem will fulfil the
tzaddik's will. But even the tzaddik has no right to dictate **how**
Hashem will do it. Your beracha (blessing) was fulfilled. The marriage
went off as planned - just not the way you thought it would happen!"
The Rebbe saw the wisdom in his words, and resumed accepting
Moshe Rabbeinu was not the least bit disturbed by his error. He knew
that ultimately, Hashem's will would prevail, if not through himself,
then through others the likes of Betzalel. If Hashem saw fit in this
case to have the Mishkan built through Betzalel's wisdom and not his
own, then that was fine too. He had no need for things to turn out
exactly the way he had planned. He did not demand exclusive rights
to prophecy and leadership.
When performing the will of Hashem, it is imperative to remember
that we are ultimately just a cog in the machinery of Klal Yisrael. Our
desire should be that Hashem's Name be sanctified in the world,
through ourselves or through others. Ideally, it should make no
difference whether we were able do the right thing ourselves, or
whether others "got there before us," as long as Hashem's will
Text Copyright © 2000 Rabbi Eliyahu Hoffmann and Project Genesis, Inc.