SALT - Monday, 20 Adar I 5779 - February 25, 2019


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  • Rav David Silverberg
            The Gemara in Masekhet Berakhot (55a) observes that there are three phenomena that God Himself “announces.”  One of these phenomena is a “parnas tov” – “good leader,” and the source cited by the Gemara is God’s appointment of Betzalel as the chief artisan for the construction of the Mishkan.  The Torah tells that God Himself singled out Betzalel for this role (Shemot 31:2, 35:30), indicating that He “announces” the appointment of a “parnas tov.”
            Leaving aside the question as to the significance of this “announcement,” Rav Chaim Zeitchik (cited by Rav Yissachar Frand) noted another intriguing aspect of the Gemara’s remark, namely, that the Gemara describes Betzalel as a “parnas tov,” highlighting his leadership qualities.  After all, God Himself, in pronouncing Betzalel’s appointment, emphasizes his outstanding artistic skill, that He had endowed Betzalel with special talent and wisdom enabling him to perform the work necessary to build the Mishkan and its furnishings (e.g. 35:31-33).  And yet, the Gemara describes Betzalel not as a good craftsman, but rather as a “parnas tov” – a “good leader.”
            Rav Zeitchik suggested that the Gemara chose this description of Betzalel because God appointed another talented artisan – Oholiav – to work alongside him (35:34).  God specifically wanted Betzalel to “share the spotlight,” so-to-speak, with another gifted individual with whom he would have to work.  Rather than work alone, Betzalel was to complete this project in cooperation with a “co-chairman.”  Rav Zeitchik thus proposes that the Gemara is pointing to one specific, vitally important quality of a “parnas tov” – the ability to work with other people, the willingness to sacrifice the fame and prestige of an exclusive position for the sake of teamwork and the pooling of talent.  Several different qualities go into making a “parnas tov,” but the one on which the Gemara focuses here is that of partnership and cooperation, using one’s talents in conjunction with other people’s talents, as opposed to insisting on acting alone and receiving all the attention and notoriety.  When we are sincerely driven, motivated by a genuine desire to achieve the best outcome, rather than promoting our own reputation, then we are willing to give way to others and share the credit, and this is one of the defining qualities of a true “parnas tov.”