Posts Tagged 'VaYakel'

Bezalel Design Thinking

As of late there has been a lot of talk of using Design Thinking in reforming Jewish Education. What is design thinking? Design Thinking has come to be defined as combining empathy for the context of a problem, creativity in the generation of insights and solutions, and rationality in analyzing and fitting various solutions to the problem context. The premise of teaching Design Thinking is that by knowing about how designers approach problems and the methods which they use to ideate, select and execute solutions, individuals and businesses will be better able to improve their own problem solving processes and take innovation to a higher level.

It seems that knowing your students and the context in which they exist is important to design optimal educational experiences for them. But is this a new idea?

Recently I was talking with Alon Meltzer who had some really interesting insights into the development of the character of Bezalel. In the Talmud we learn that Bezalel must have been sitting in the tzel- shadow, listening in on the divine plan, and that is where he got his name (Berachot 55a). In his nature he was an observer.

In Ki Sisa we were introduced to Bezalel. We read:

See, I have called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah,and I have imbued him with the spirit of God, with wisdom, with insight, with knowledge, and with [talent for] all manner of craftsmanship ( Exodus 31:2)

Bezalel was filled the ruach, Holy Spirit. Rashi quotes the Sifrei to explain:

With his intellect he understands other things based on what he learned. With his intellect he understands other things based on what he learned

According to Rashi, the Holy spirit was his intellectual capacity to take an idea and make it into reality.

In Vayakhel we repeat the building of the Mishkan. There we are reintroduced to Bezalel and his God-given talents.  There we read:

Bezalel and Oholiav and every wise hearted man into whom God had imbued wisdom and insight to know how to do, shall do all the work of the service of the Holy, according to all that the Lord has commanded. ’With his intellect he understands other things based on what he learned’( Exodus 36:1)

This  seems to echo what Rashi was explaining that he knew how to brainstorm real life solutions.

And then in Pekuday, this week’s Torah portion we read:

Bezalel, son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, had made all that the Lord had commanded Moses.  (Exodus 38:22)

Here Rashi explains Bezalel’s ingenuity. He was able to realize that while Moshe was shown the utensils of the Mishkan first, it would be impractical to build them first, so he reversed the order and first built the house, and then the utensils.

Bezalel has insight and wisdom bestowed upon him from God. Then Bezalel takes these designs and prototypes them, constructing things according to plan and everything is ‘as God commanded him’. And finally this week Bezalel goes beyond and reimagines the project, and introduces his own vision in the implementation of the design. Bezalel seems to move seamlessly from observing to brainstorming, to prototyping, and finally to implementing. Bezalel seems to manifest this Design Thinking process. Maybe he can inspire us to rethink Jewish Education. 

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Housing our IP

In VaYakel, this week’s Torah portion, we learn of Bezalel the master artist behind the creation of the Tabernacle and all of the accouterments. There we read ,” And God has put in his heart that he may teach..” ( Exodus 35:14). On this Ibn Ezra comments that some scholars have a great deal of wisdom but do not always want to or have the ability to share what they know with others. It is noteworthy that the Torah tells us that Bezalel was given a knowing heart coupled with the ability and desire to teach. This project of the community would not have come together without a leader like Bezalel.

I am struck but how much brilliance of our community is locked up in  intellectual property issues. While people should be rewarded for their efforts, it seems strange that we limit ourselves to antiquated rules of who owns Torah. We need to find ways to get our teachers to realize their God given gifts to teach and to incentivize them to share it on any and every platform.

I encourage you to watch this TED talk.

Larry Lessig’s points seem to ask the right questions.  How do we reward the innovators while not hampering innovation itself? How do we build for the future?

When discussing children in his Prophet, Kahlil Gibran wrote:

Your children are not your children.

They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.

They come through you but not from you,

And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts.

For they have their own thoughts.

You may house their bodies but not their souls,

For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.

I have to ask, do we own our ideas any more or less then we own our children? Bezalel asks us to reconsider the house that me might build. This could be a house for God, our children, or for ideas themselves. What are we doing to insure that we creating an environment in which we are all driven to share the overflow of these wonderful ideas? They are clearly the key to our sustained happiness if not our collective survival.

I encourage you to read up on Aharon Varady’s  Open Siddur Project. This represents an interesting venture that is asking us all to teach from an open heart.


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