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More than Just a faucet

more than just a faucet
more than just a faucet
richard klempner

Have you ever heard the story of the sheik whose desert kingdom discovered huge deposits of oil. Suddenly they were awash with geysers of this gushing fluid. Still, the people suffered. They were missing one crucial necessity, water. The sheik decided to travel to America, a land where there were solutions for people who didn’t even know they had problems. Certainly there, he thought, he would find the answer to his country’s water shortage.

In his hotel suite, the sheik was amazed that every faucet turned produced abundant water. Slowly an idea began to develop. Wiring as much money as his country could spare, he went to every plumbing supply outlet he could find and bought every available faucet. Needless to say the plan didn’t work out exactly as hoped.

Once upon a time, there lived a people with no land, though their need for a home was no less than those of other nations. Thus it came to pass that their leader, Moses, received instructions from on High to build a temporary home that would house a Sanctuary where Jews could gather and be inspired. The chief architect was a young lad named Betzalel, who had just become Bar Mitzvah! Still the Torah attests to the capability and integrity of this child/man when it states that he, “did everything that Hashem commanded Moses.” Our Sages however wonder: why the phrase commending the architect does not read, “everything that Moses commanded Betzalel?”

The commentaries explain that Betzalel intuitively implemented instructions he had not received from Moses, although, in fact, they had been commanded by the Almighty. One discrepancy between what Hashem commanded versus what Moses relayed was the chronology of construction. Moses FIRST taught the young man the measurements for the Ark, then for the other utensils and finally for the Tabernacle itself. This order made no sense to Betzalel who argued that it was customary to first build a house and only afterwards its furnishings. “If I follow your procedure,” said Betzalel to Moses, “where will I place the Ark and other vessels when I’ve finished?”

Jewish history does not shy away from revealing the mistakes of the great ones, including Moses. In this case, Moses ultimately conceded that Betzalel was indeed correct. Indeed, that was how he had been instructed by G-d. Why then did Moses reverse the order?

Moses was not interested in conveying building-protocol. He spoke conceptually, stressing the purpose of the Mishkan. The Holy Ark was the Sanctuary’s masterpiece. It contained the Ten Commandments and the original Torah scroll. So although building regulations might warrant putting up the walls first, Betzalel was to bear in mind that the raison d’être of the Sanctuary was not its external, visible structure. Therefore if one were to remove the Ark, the Temple would be an empty edifice, a dry faucet devoid of the living waters of the Torah.

Have you heard about the Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools in Los Angeles that cost $578 million to build? Though the local community was strongly opposed, the school board went ahead anyways, outfitting the campus with fine art murals, a marble memorial depicting the complex’s namesake, a manicured public park, a state-of-the-art swimming pool and preservation of pieces of the original hotel that once stood on the site. In 2010, two lawsuits were filed for molestation of two children at the school.

Schools have one purpose: to educate. When the focus becomes the building and not on the learning inside, then priorities are misplaced. Hebrew academy, like all Jewish schools are designed to EDUCATE and INSPIRE. They are not always the fanciest, but they are imbued with the spirit of our Torah as its fulcrum. Otherwise, all we would have is a beautiful palace whose taps run dry?

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