Over the next few parshiyot up until the end of the book of Shemot, the Torah discusses the building of the Mishkan and the vessels.
Rashi (Shemot 38:22), quoting the Talmud Berachot (55a), notes the give and take between Moshe Rabbeinu and Betzalel. Moshe instructed Betzalel to assemble the Keilim (vessels) before the building of the Mishkan. Betzalel responded that the Minhag Ha’Olam (literally world custom), standard practice, is first to build a house and then make the furnishings (the utensils). Moshe responded that is actually what he heard from G-d and praises him by saying בצל א-ל היית you were in the shadow of G-d to know what G-d instructed without hearing it directly.
Why did Moshe tell Betzalel to do differently than what he was told? Furthermore, R. Yehoshua Baumohl asks, if Betzalel was on such a high level, why is he called merely Betzalel – the shadow of G-d and not Uri – my light, like his father? He suggests something fascinating, that despite Betzalel’s greatness, he continued to follow minhag ha’olam, standard customary practice. If a person is unwilling to break away from minhag ha’olam, he will always be in God’s shadow. If he wants to shine a light, he needs to think outside the box. He needs to trail blaze with creativity.
In a different context, Rabbi Menachem Sacks asks: why do we take three steps back at the end of the Amidah when we pray for peace? He suggests that if we want to make peace, we can’t always follow the minhago shel olam – the way of the world and stand our ground. We sometimes have to take steps back and look at it from a different perspective.
Moshe Rabbeinu told Yehoshua: you are correct in recommending building the Mishkan then the vessels as that is standard practice, but sometimes we need creative, out-of-the-box solutions to shine.
Rabbi Shlomo Gabay