by Rabbi Alex Freedman
Judaism strives to turn the ordinary into extraordinary. For example, ordinary candles lit on Friday night become Shabbat candles. Ordinary 13th birthdays become a Bar/Bat Mitzvah. These intentional transformations of objects or times make them holy.
Each of you has an opportunity to do the same thing in your workplace. Whatever your profession, I bet there is a way to do your job to serve both G-d and the Jewish people.
This lesson flows from this week’s Torah reading, Ki Tisa. Moses, our greatest leader, is somehow not chosen to build the magnificent Mishkan, the portable Tabernacle (sanctuary). Instead, an unheard-of boy is selected – Betzalel. We are told that G-d “filled him with a divine spirit of skill, ability, and knowledge in every kind of craft” (Ex. 31:3). Today we might say that certain artists, musicians, and athletes have “G-d-given talent.” The Torah teaches that explicitly about Betzalel.
A construction job can be an ordinary building project. However, when the goal is building a synagogue, it becomes a holy act. Architects become more essential than rabbis, which is why Betzalel was chosen ahead of Moses.
Your work can be considered religious or holy even if you don’t work in a synagogue. Indeed, it is not about the physical location of the work but the purpose behind it.
Musicians can be ordinary musicians; but when they play at a Simcha, their work is holy.
Journalists can be ordinary journalists; but when they inspire people to act for a cause, their work is holy.
Betzalel was an ordinary artist until he crafted the Mishkan.
Each of us is granted “divine spirit of skill, ability, and knowledge” – though we’re not always sure what it is. Many people can’t do well the job that you do. We all have the opportunity at some point to use our skills to serve G-d and the Jewish people. That transforms our work from ordinary to extraordinary – and it transforms us as well.