Rabbi Frand on Parshas Vayakhel
These divrei Torah were adapted from the hashkafa portion of Rabbi Yissocher
Frand's Commuter Chavrusah Tapes on the weekly portion: Tape # 366, The
Melacha of Tearing. Good Shabbos!
A Good Name Is Better Than Good Oil
There is an interesting Medrash on the pasuk [verse] "See G-d has called by
name Betzalel son of Uri son of Chur of the tribe of Yehudah" [Shmos 35:30].
The Medrash references the pasuk in Koheles "A good name is better than good
oil" [Koheles 7:1]. The Medrash elaborates that the scent of good oil may
precede the oil by a mile or two at most, even if the oil has a very
powerful aroma. However, a good name can proceed a person even across
The Medrash then asks how far a person must remove himself from contact with
the prohibition of Shatnez [the forbidden mixture of wool and linen]. The
Medrash answers that even if a person is wearing 99 layers of clothing and
none of them are Shatnez, he still may not wear a garment containing Shatnez
as the one hundredth layer of clothing.
What is the connection between distancing oneself from Shatnez and the pasuk
that says, "A good name is better than good oil"?
Rav Nissan Alpert gives the following interpretation of this Medrash (in his
sefer Limudei Nissan):
Every time the Torah introduces Betzalel, it uses the following unique
expression: "Look, I've called him by this name..." Why does the torah give
Betzalel such an introduction? The Medrash explains that the reason why
Betzalel merited to be the master builder of the Mishkan [Tabernacle] was
not because he had master architectural talents or special artistic ability.
Betzalel's uniqueness was that he -- for some reason -- merited having a
'good name'. The Medrash then emphasizes how wonderful it is to have a good
reputation (shem tov). G-d, in choosing someone to construct his dwelling
place on earth (the Mishkan), did not want to be associated with anyone who
had anything less than an impeccable reputation.
How does one obtain a good reputation? The Medrash answers this question by
introducing the matter of Shatnez. The Medrash is teaching that the way a
person acquires a good name is not by merely avoiding evil or sin, but by
avoiding even the slightest hint of impropriety. It is not sufficient to
merely 'play it by the book'. A person must distance himself to the ultimate
extent from anything that even smacks of impropriety.
Shatnez is a peculiar prohibition, in that the two substances involved
(wool and linen) are completely permitted when taken individually. Only a
combination of the two is prohibited. The Torah is teaching us that a
person merits a good name by staying away from Shatnez. Avoiding Shatnez
represents staying away from anything that has even a minute mixture of
Those people in our communities who have achieved a good name are people
who are above reproach. They have removed themselves from any taint of
scandal or impropriety. Impeccable reputations are not achieved by playing
it on the edge or bending the rules.
We all know that certain people's handshakes are more reliable than other
people's signed contracts. The reason why is because the first group of
people stay away from 'forbidden mixtures'. They stay away from the
slightest hint of 'non-Kosher' business practices. Ultimately, this is
what pays off for them in the long run. When G-d builds a Mishkan, He does
not want it built by a person regarding whom people may have suspicions.
He wants a Betzalel -- a person above reproach, who possesses a good name,
which is superior to good oil.
This write-up was adapted from the hashkafa portion of Rabbi Yissocher
Frand's Commuter Chavrusah Torah Tape series on the weekly Torah portion.
The complete list of halachic topics covered in this series for Parshas
Vayakhel are provided below:
Also Available: Mesorah / Artscroll has published a collection
of Rabbi Frand's essays. The book is entitled:
and is available through your local Hebrew book store or from
Project Genesis, 1-410-654-1799.