Jewish Labor

Parshat Pekudei (Shmot 38:21-22) opens with the words:

These are the records of the Tabernacle, the Tabernacle of Testimony, which were drawn up at Moshe’s bidding—the work of the Levites under the direction of Itamar son of Aaron the priest. Now Bezalel, son of Uri son of Hur, of the tribe of Yehuda, had made all that God had commanded Moshe.

Sforno points out:

The Torah begins to list the many ways in which the “Mishkan”, the Tabernacle, was superior to the Temples that superseded it.

Firstly, it was “Mishkan HaEdut”, the Tabernacle of Testimony, so named because the Tablets of the Testimony were deposited therein.

Secondly, “Asher Pakad al pi Moshe”, which were drawn up at Moshe’s bidding, it had been put up at the command of Moshe.

Thirdly, “Avodat HaLeviim b’yad Itamar”, the work of the Leviim under the direction of Itamar: The entire service of the Levites had been entrusted to the illustrious Itamar, son of Aaron.

Fourthly, “Bezalel, son of Uri son of Hur, of the tribe of Yehuda” the divinely inspired Betzalel was its principal architect.

In view of all the above advantages of this structure none of it fell into enemy hands.

By contrast, the First Temple erected by King Solomon had most of its work done by laborers from Tzor. Even though the Shechinah, Divine Presence, came to rest on it, it was eventually destroyed, all of it having been lost totally. The inferiority of that structure is evident from the fact that the building itself was in need of regular, almost annual repairs (Melachim Bet 22:5).

The Second Temple was even more inferior and it was not even called Mishkan HaEdut, the Residence of the Testimony, as the Tablets had already been lost. Neither had it been established by God’s command but by a dream that a gentile named King Cyrus dreamed that it was his duty to build a temple to the God in heaven (Ezra 8:15).

Moreover, there were hardly any Leviim that bothered to return to the Land of Israel at the time to take part in Shivat Zion, the Return to Zion.

In addition to this, among the people building this Second Temple were also pagans called Tzidonim and Tzurim, as documented in the Book of Ezra.

We see from Sforno’s comments that the original Mishkan which was constructed in the desert was better quality than the First and Second Temples and was built totally by members of B’nai Yisrael.

In the midst of the war in Israel today, the question has come up as to who will be doing the building if we are not opening up our doors to construction workers from Judea, Samaria and Gaza. As well, many of the foreign workers have gone home.

Now is the time for us to support Israelis who want to take part in building up the State of Israel by training those who are interested in working in construction and by paying them fair wages.