Parashat Vayakhel is the fourth of five consecutive Torah portions dealing with the Tabernacle and the Kohanim who served there. A theme that is repeated through these portions is the construction and architecture of the Tabernacle and vessels that are used in it.

The man most responsible for the actual construction was named Betzalel. As we saw in Parashat Teruma, he had an interesting discussion with Moses regarding the order of the construction. Moses wanted to construct the vessels first, but Betzalel demurred and said that one must first construct the Tabernacle first, and only afterward the various vessels.

According to the Midrash, there was a similar contention between them regarding the order of making the Ark of the Covenant. Moses claimed that the proper order was to first construct the Ark, while Betzalel insisted that he first construct the Tabernacle into which the Ark would be put. In both the arguments, Moses acquiesced. But what was their disagreement really about?

...we all look at the world differently – each ...feeling quite sure that our judgment is correct.

Shem miShmuel explains that we all come into the world with a specific task to achieve. Since this is the case, we all look at the world differently – each from his or her perspective – feeling quite sure that our judgment is correct. Moses came into the world without any special spiritual qualities. Everything that he achieved was through his own effort and labor. When he encountered G‑d at the burning bush, he was granted many spiritual gifts to enable him to take the Jews out of Egypt. But, even these he earned only by working hard to remove from himself the last vestiges of any undesirable personality traits. Since this was so, Moses was a firm believer in "self-help."

That is why Moses believed that the vessels had to be constructed first. They represent the inner soul-powers that a person must cultivate and develop in order to get closer to the One Above. Therefore, it made sense to Moses to first built the vessels, and only afterward to concentrate upon the Tabernacle to contain them.

Betzalel, though, was from a different school of thought. His greatness in Torah came easily and at an early age. By the time of his bar-mitzvah, he was said to possess the ability to "recombine the Hebrew letters with which were created the heavens and earth." That is, he was on such a high level, that he could alter the nature of physical creation through spiritual means. There were gifts that he was granted in order that he should be able to craft the Tabernacle and its vessels. Since these gifts came to him easily, seemingly from outside and without a lot of effort on his part, he was a firm believer in the power of environment and atmosphere to affect one’s growth. Therefore, he strongly emphasized the need to first create the proper environment – symbolized by the Tabernacle – even before constructing the vessels themselves. That is, he argues, first one must provide the environment, and then one can develop the proper understanding and feeling.

Ultimately, Moses acquiesced to Betzalel, because it became clear to him that the children of Israel needed the appropriate atmosphere in order to develop properly. Moses, with his powers, could work upon himself and attain all that he attained. Most of us, however, need to first be in the right environment, and only afterward are we able to develop. Even if we have the tools, it’s hard for us to use them properly without the right atmosphere.

...B’tzal El - "you came from the shadow of G‑d."

So, the argument of Betzalel took precedence and Moses agreed with him, saying B’tzal El - - "you came from the shadow of G‑d [and therefore you knew the correct order to do the construction]."

The Chassidut of Chabad has another take on this difference of opinion between Moses and Betzalel. The vessels of the Tabernacle represent ohr memale, or the imminent light that permeates the universe, while the Tabernacle represents ohr makif, the transcendent light that transcends all. Moses put the emphasis on local, permeating spirituality – which enables and encourages us to grow – because this is the level of G‑dliness that we can internalize and understand. Betzalel put the emphasis upon transcendent G‑dliness because he believed that without it we have nothing to strive for—we need a nurturing environment in which to develop our knowledge and faith in G‑d.

Ultimately, Moses agreed with Betzalel because he realized that even though he, Moses, was able to achieve spiritual heights without a nurturing environment, the average Jew would not be able to do so.

[From "Inner Lights from Jerusalem!" based on the Shem miShmuel and other Chassidic and Kabalistic Sources]