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Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Yayakhel – Exodus 35:1-38:20
Humility is a virtue, no doubt about it. But like many good things, in excess it becomes a vice. Veterans are particularly prone to think all self-promotion is bad. Parshas Vayakhel has a different view:
“Bezalel made the ark of acacia wood….” (Shemos/Exodus 37:12)
This Sabbath’s parsha reviews the construction of the Mishkan (Tabernacle). It also relates perhaps the only time in Jewish history that a building campaign was so oversubscribed people actually had to be told to stop giving!
The Nature of Reward
Bezalel gets all the credit for building the ark. Scripture records his name. And he received his full reward in the World to Come. Bezalel gets all the glory even though others helped construct the ark.
G-d does not diminish Bezalel’s heavenly reward despite his receiving eternal publicity in the Bible. True, he devoted all of his talent and energy to building the ark and the Tabernacle. But you would think such a breach of humility as accepting sole credit would justify the Almighty’s reducing Bezalel’s portion in the World to Come.
The great sage Rabbi Shlomo ben Aderet, better known as the Rashba, concludes that G-d wants the names of people who performed good deeds publicized and remembered. Others will be encouraged to carry out more good works.
When Self-Promotion is Virtuous
Other commentators, like R’ Yehudah HaChassid, castigate people who perform good deeds in order to get recognition. He focuses special contempt on someone who refuses to let others participate in a community project so he will get sole credit.
So which is it? Should we shun self-promotion or publicize our good deeds?
Motive makes all the difference. If you announce your actions to receive honor, the Almighty won’t be impressed. No one else should be either. As well, if your good deed helps an individual, out of respect for the recipient’s dignity keep the matter private.
If you seek publicity to better serve your family or community, the example of Bezalel shows the merit of such behavior. When, like the building of the Tabernacle, a project benefits the whole community you’re setting an example that G-d wants others to follow.
At first, you may find it uncomfortable to tell people about your good deeds. Consider which is more important: your own ease or spreading the idea that everyone should participate in bettering our communities. When others hear about what you’ve done and join in you’ll have reason to celebrate.
How do you promote yourself so as to benefit others? Please comment below.
Every year beginning on Simchas Torah, the cycle of reading the Torah, the first five books of the Bible, ends and begins again. Each Sabbath a portion known as a sedra or parsha is read. It is named after the first significant word or two with which this weekly reading begins.
What verse in the Old Testament would you like to know more about? Ask here and I will answer it in a future Parsha Nugget!