For the past two weeks we have been learning about constructing a MishkanTabernacle. Two weeks ago in Parshat Terumah, Hashem instructed Moshe to tell the Jewish people “Make for me a Sanctuary so that I may dwell among them” (25:8). Then Hashem told him of the various vessels that should be housed in it and the items needed to produce them. Last week, in Parshat Tetzaveh, came the instructions of the various garments the Kohanim were to wear, the details of how they should be made, and the ways Kohanim are inaugurated and inducted to serve in the Sanctuary.

All this was indeed an undertaking of great magnitude and seemingly very difficult to achieve.

To facilitate the challenge, in this week’s Parshah of Ki Tisa, Hashem tells Moshe not to find the assignment daunting because, “See, I have called by name Betzalel son of Uri, son of Chur, of the tribe of Yehudah. I have filled him with a G‑dly spirit, with wisdom, insight and knowledge and with every craft etc.” (31:2-4).

Betzalel’s mastery of the wide array of crafts needed to build the Mishkan was remarkable, if not miraculous. Even more amazing, however, is what the Gemara (Sanhedrin 69b) derives from the pasukIsh Ish” — “every man — from his work that they were doing” (36:4), and from a calculation based on incidents that took place during the lifetime of his great grandfather Calev, that the designated multi-faceted chief architect and exceptional genius was only an Ish — 13 years old at this time.

Granted, Betzalel must have been an unusual child prodigy, but undoubtedly, there were many older people with much more experience. Why then was such a young person selected as chief architect?

My dear Bar Mitzvah, I believe that herein lies a very important message to every Jew and particularly one who is reaching the age of Bar Mitzvah.

Regarding the Mishkan it is said, “And they shall make for Me a Sanctuary — veshachanti betocham — and I will dwell among them.” Grammatically it should have said “veshachanti betocho — “and I will dwell in it.” From this it is deduced by Rabbi Yeshayahu Halevi Horowitz (c. 1565-1630) who authored the holy sefer Shnei Luchot Habrit, abbreviated as Shelah (Sha’ar Ha’Otiot Lamed), that Hashem’s intent was to dwell in each individual — that every Jew should make himself a dwelling place for G‑dliness.

By selecting Betzalel at the young age of 13 over all the older and more experienced architects, Hashem was implying a message of cardinal importance As soon as a Jewish boy becomes Bar Mitzvah and is obligated in the performance of mitzvot, he is required to make himself a Holy Sanctuary in which G‑d will feel comfortable dwelling.

I pray that you, my dear Bar Mitzvah, will hear this message. You will dedicate yourself to Torah study, performance of Mitzvot, and be a model miniature Sanctuary in which Hashem will be happy and satisfied to rest.


In this week’s Parshah we read of a mystical dialogue between Moshe and Hashem in which the “kesher shel tefillin — “the knot of the tefillin — played a pivotal role. Moshe prayed forty days to gain forgiveness for the Jewish people’s grievous crime of the golden calf. During this period Hashem told Moshe how dear he was to Him and that he had found favor in His eyes. Hearing of his endearment, Moshe suddenly challenged Hashem, “Make Your ways known to me so that I may comprehend You” (33:13).

Seeing that it was an “eit ratzon — “a time of favor,” — Moshe went a step further and asked Hashem “Har’eini na et kevodecha” — “Show me Your glory” (33:18).

Hashem was not perturbed by this request. On the contrary, He loved Moshe immensely and acquiesced. He told Moshe the following: “You will not be able to see My face, for no human can see My face and live, Behold! there is a place near Me; you can stand on the rock. When My glory passes by, I shall place you in the cleft of the rock; I shall shield you with My hand until I have passed. Then I shall remove My hand, and you will see My back, but My face may not be seen” (33:20-23).

Finally the ecstatic moment arrives. What does Moshe see? Rashi, quoting the Gemara (Berachot 7a), says that Hashem showed him “kesher shel tefillin” — “the knot at the back of the tefillin worn on the head.”

Now, regarding the knot on the tefillin shel rosh — head tefillin — Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, known among Chabad Chassidim as the Alter Rebbe, writes in his Shulchan Aruch: “The knot with which the tefillin are tied is a halachah l’Moshe miSinai — transmitted to Moshe at Sinai. After inserting the straps in the passageway of the bayit — the box that contains the tefillin scrolls — one should tie a knot resembling a dalet for the head-tefillin and one resembling a yud for the arm-tefillin. This together with the shin [on the compartment] of the head-tefillin — completes the letters shin-dalet-yud [spelling out;] the Name of Hashem” (32:79).

A few sections earlier (27:17) the Alter Rebbe writes, “The part of the knot of the head-tefillin that appears like a dalet, must face outward and not toward the neck.”

With these brief words the Alter Rebbe is alluding to the comment of the Magen Avraham (27:16) that the wording of this law in the Shulchan Aruch implies that the knot of the head-tefillin should form one dalet, and not two, one from either side. Sephardic and Lubavitch custom follows this ruling. Ashkenazic custom is to tie the knot in a way that forms two dalets, one on each side. In fact the Magen Avraham (32:69) writes that this is the prevalent custom.

So we see clearly that there are different customs concerning the way to make the knot of the head tefillin. What kind of knot was on Hashem’s tefillin? Moreover, if Moshe personally saw Hashem’s knot, why are there two opinions about how the knot should be made?

Rabbi Aaron Levin, of Reisha, Galicia (1879-1991) in his sefer Birkat Aharon on Gemara Berachot, #40, explains this dialogue in the following way:

The tefillin consist of two parts. One is placed on the hand and the other on the head. The hand represents inter-human relationships (bein adam lachaveiro). With our hands we extend aid and assistance to others.

The head is the seat of the human intellect by which we study Torah meditate in our tefillah — prayer — and perform mitzvot between man and Hashem (bein adam laMakom).

There are people who excel in their inter-human relationships but who lack in their connection with Hashem. On the other hand, there are people who study Torah diligently and consider themselves close to Hashem, but unfortunately, their behavior leaves much to be desired in their inter-human relationships. Of course, a Jew should excel in both.

Moshe asked Hashem to show him His glory so that he would have a better understanding of what Hashem wants of the Jewish people. Displaying the “kesher shel tefillin” — “the knot of the tefillin” — was an allegory. It conveyed the message that it is a Divine wish for each Jew to bind together the significance of the two tefillin. A person should do his utmost in bein adam lachaveiro — to help a fellow Jew — and also in bein adam laMakom — to serve Hashem.

My dear Bar Mitzvah, you are now assuming the yoke of Torah and mitzvot. Hopefully, you will always bear in mind Hashem’s message to Moshe Rabbeinu. You must make the kesher shel tefillin — strive to combine and excel in both bein adam laMakom — your relationship with Hashem and bein adam lachaveiro — your interhuman relationships: Thus, you will be a true source of Yiddish and Chassidish nachas to your family and Klal Yisrael.