Mirror mirror on the wall:
Mamish gevaldige responses from many Neshay Chayil (women) who read this heylige toirah weekly. The simcha (joy) they felt for being properly addressed was mamish palpable and why not? As we will shortly learn, the veyber (holy women) played a significant role in the building of the Mishkan, which this week’s parsha of Vayakhel is dedicated to. The Mishkan, the centerpiece of the parsha, is the symbolic representation of the BNY (People of Israel) and the heylige toirah. And quite remarkably, our Rabbis lavish extravagant praise on women in relation to these major aspects of Judaism.
The heylige toirah itself and numerous medroshim recount several incidents where the women participated ober (but) halt zich eyn (relax yourself)- it’s all coming in a few minutes, I promise. This week’s learning is then dedicated to the many many veyber who have come to enjoy the weekly toirah.
I also have gevaldige news for the oisvorfs that may have walked out of laining with a chaver (friend) a few weeks back to speak some loshoin horah, cholila, or may have missed davening altogether, chas v’sholom – blaming the weather- or were thinking about some big business deal and weren’t at all paying attention to the heylige parsha, loi olaynu. And that news is that Parshas Vayakhel is for the most part a repeat of Parshas Terumah: the RBSO is giving you a second chance to listen and avada we can, or should understand the importance of second chances.
Nu – in last week’s episode of the Yiddin, we watched the BNY’s steep drop in emunah (belief). From the heights of receiving the toirah 40 days back to their nadir with the building of the Eygel, it was one steep fall. Ober, we learned that neshay chayil (the veyber) did not participate and refused to hand over their gold for the eygel fiasco. The Da’as Zekeinim suggests that during this incident, their men mamish took their wives’ jewelry by force, chazerrim that they were.
This shabbis we will read almost word for word, what we read three weeks ago in Parshas Teruma about the building of the Mishkan (Tabernacle) in the desert. The only significant difference is that back in Teruma we learned what the RBSO commanded the BNY to do and this week we read about how they ACTUALLY did it. At first glance this is hard to understand. Each word of the Toirah is exact, written by the RBSO. Why repeat an entire Parsha just to tell us that the Yiddin followed instructions? Why not just add a few words at the end of Truma that the Yiddin followed orders? Is Parshas Vayakhel simply a repeat of Parshas Teruma?
Mistama (likely) you already know my standard answer: if the RBSO repeated the details, avada (of course) there was good reason and efsher (just maybe) that reason was to let us all know how the neshay chayil participated. Indeed, the details of the mishkan are practically identical in both parshios. Nu, Tackling such a difficult question as to why it’s repeated would require a few pages and zicher some basic understanding, both of which most of you minuvulim nebech don’t have. So- we’ll skip that part – and if you would spend a little less time surfing the net for schmutz which you then forward to your gantze (entire) address book and look into the medrish or at least the Rashi, you would learn something valuable. Ok-enough mussir for today, let’s learn some parsha. What’s happening in the Parsha?
Ok I won’t leave you hanging. In Teruma, the heylige Toirah records the RBSO’s commandment to Moishe to build the mishkan – or in Hebrew, what we refer to as ‘tzivui ha-mishkan’. In contrast, Parshas Vayakhel describes how Moishe conveyed these instructions to Bnei Yisrael and got the job done. Seemingly, the only apparent difference being that the details which in Terumah are prefaced with the words, “And they shall make…” are here presented following the preface, “And they made…”
As an aside, typically we would be enjoying a double header this shabbis (both Vayakhel and Pikuday) ober given that it’s an iber yur (leap year), this year we will only lain Vayakhel. Practically what this means is: less talking time during the laining and that both Purim and Pesach are later in the season and mistama for the oisvorfs who travel away for Pesach, sunny and warmer weather is a shtikel more guaranteed.
Notwithstanding the mamish bone chilling temperature outside these last few days, in Parsha time, it’s the day after Yoim Kippur. Of course you’re not surprised to hear that some say it’s mamish Yoim Kippur- maybe during the break. Moishe Rabaynuu returned just yesterday with the new and improved Luchois and it’s time to get down to the business of mamish building the Mishkan, the altars, the utensils, the clothing and avada the sewing of the curtains and all else. The design committee has approved the plans, the building permits are in order and construction is about to begin.
But first, Moishe Rabaynuu assembled the BNY (children of Israel, all of them), and reminded them once again about keeping shabbis. Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day there shall be to you a holy day, a shabbis of shabbisiss to the RBSO: whoever does work on it shall be put to death. Avada you’re wondering if keeping the TV on a shabbis clock or adjusting the thermostat bring the death penalty- nu- I don’t pasken but Yoim Kippur- the real one, is only a few months away and the RBSO is avada eagerly awaiting your t’shuva on these and myriad other chatoim (transgressions) that loi olaynuu you nebech violated. Many, over and again, loi olaynu. Moishe also reminds the BNY that ‘You shall kindle no fire throughout your habitations on the Shabbis day’, especially if you don’t have proper fire insurance and unless it’s pre-planned. And following this pretty stiff warning, Moishe again reminds the BNY that in order to build all these things, they need money and the materials to build; it’s time to pony up.
Since you already forgot what we studied a few weeks back, let’s quickly chazer (review) what he asked for in his appeal: Take from among you an offering to G-d: whoever is of a willing heart, let him bring it…Gold, and silver, and copper; Blue, purple, and scarlet [wool], and fine linen, and goats’ hair; Rams’ skins dyed red, tachash skins, and shittim wood; Oil for the light, and spices for the anointing oil and for the sweet incense; Shoham stones and stones to be set for the eifod and for the breastplate.
Nu- the BNY, feeling pangs of guilt and having just been reprieved for the eygel caper, respond more than generously. They bring copious amounts of each material to be used for building the mishkan. Abundance abounds. The people are so eager to give that they bring more supplies than the artisans of the Mishkan can use. Their gifts—the threads and yarns, fabrics, skins, wood, oils, spices, precious stones, and metals—are portrayed so elaborately and with such rich detail that we can almost feel, see, and smell these sumptuous contributions, the outpouring of the peoples’ hearts. Of particular interest in this parsha are the descriptions of the women’s contributions. The parsha makes clear that women are among the community’s skilled artisans and that their expertise is acknowledged and valued. In this most sacred work, the talents and ability of both women and men are required. Let’s learn some of the pisukkim together, it won’t kill you:
- The men came with the women; every generous hearted person brought bracelets and earrings and rings and buckles, all kinds of golden objects, and every man who waved a waving of gold to the Lord.
- And every wise hearted woman spun with her hands, and they brought spun material: blue, purple, and crimson wool, and linen.
- And all the women whose hearts uplifted them with wisdom, spun the goat hair.
- Every man and woman whose heart inspired them to generosity to bring for all the work that the Lord had commanded to make, through Moses, the children of Israel brought a gift for the Lord .
Did you read Possik 22 correctly? וַיָּבֹאוּ הָאֲנָשִׁים עַל הַנָּשִׁים כֹּל נְדִיב “And the men came upon the women (al haNashim)”. Rashi, my favorite of all commentators interprets this unique syntax to mean that the men came WITH the women.
And they came; everyone whose heart stirred them and everyone whose spirit made willing, and they brought the offering to the RBSO for the work of the Tent of Meeting, and for all its service, and for the holy garments. They came, the men along with the women… and they brought bracelets, and earrings, and rings, and girdles, all jewels of gold…The Ramban clarifies and states: They came, the men along with the women. The women came first and the men followed. Mistama one of the rare cases in history of such a happening.
This p’shat however mamish contradicts the understanding of the Medrish Rabba who says: See what is written about this! “And they came, the men along with the women”–they came one on top of another, men and women together in an intermingled throng, and in two mornings they had brought all the necessary donations. So what takah happened? Did the women come first or did the men come along with the women or did they come one on top of another? Nu…ver veyst but we all agree that everyone came.
And speaking about the women coming and giving, let’s chazir a medrish Tanchuma quoted by Rashi that we learned together way back in Sefer Breishis (don’t ask me where) which says azoy (like this):
The daughters of Israel had mirrors in which they looked to adorn themselves; these, too, they did not withhold as donations for the making of the Mishkan. Can you imagine what koiach (strength) it took for women to rip their mirrors off their walls? Many women would forgo other luxuries and mistama even a few necessities, but not having a mirror is mamish unheard of. Isn’t it takah emes that but not for mirrors, women would be ready early for every occasion? When was the last time your eishes chayil left the house without looking in the mirror from every possible angle over and again? Is it a wonder that the toirah itself and the medroshim heap such lavish praise on them? Takah well deserved!
Ober her tzi (listen to this) – in response to Moishe’s request to bring items from their homes, many women did just that and enthusiastically removed the mirrors off their walls. Nevertheless Moishe could not find room within the Mishkan, the place where the RBSO’s presence is to be palpable, for that which serves human narcissism and vanity. Moishe disdained these mirrors, since their purpose is to awaken lust. The Medrish explain that Moishe Rabaynuu at first rejected the women’s gifts as objects of vanity and unfit for a sacred purpose. Said the RBSO to him: Accept them, for these are more beloved to Me than everything else: through these, the women begot hosts of children in Mitzrayim. When their men were exhausted by hard labor, they would go and bring them food and drink and feed them. They would take along the mirrors, and each would look at herself in the mirror together with her husband and tease him, saying, “Look, I’m more beautiful than you,” thus awakening desire in her husband and cohabiting with him and conceiving and giving birth there, as it is written in Shir Hashirim (Song of Songs 8:5), “Under the apple tree I roused you.”
Mistama we can learn from this that takah at times it would be best for women to seduce their husbands after a hard day’s work and instead of meeting them in their pundulas (special word for a house-robe in Brooklyn) and other schmattis on their heads, they might consider epes a little dress-up (or down), if you chap what I’m saying. Or, esfher p’shat is that a mirror on the wall or ceiling is takah nisht giferlach. Ok- back to the parsha…
Says the heylige toirah: וַיַּעַשׂ אֵת הַכִּיּוֹר נְחֹשֶׁת וְאֵת כַּנּוֹ נְחֹשֶׁת בְּמַרְאֹת הַצֹּבְאֹת אֲשֶׁר צָבְאוּ פֶּתַח אֹהֶל מוֹעֵד:
“And he made the Basin of copper… out of the mirrors of the women assembling… “– their most cherished possessions, converted from the symbol of vanity into a symbol of virtue. Ironically, it was from the Kiyor (sink) that waters would be drawn in the event that the husband suspected his eishes chayil of infidelity and di zelba (these same) waters helped a woman accused of adultery prove her innocence.
Efsher (maybe) you’re klerring why the heylige toirah specifies that both men and women donated towards the Mishkan. Would we have thought otherwise, wouldn’t we think that the holy women would naturally want to participate? Says the Kli Yakar azoy: this teaches us that since the Mishkan came to atone for the sin of the chet hoeygel (golden calf), one could have assumed that the women, who did not sin (remember that we learned just last week how they refused to give up their gold and jewels) didn’t participate in the building of the Mishkan. The Toirah, therefore, specifies the greatness of the women who wanted to be involved in this holy action even though it was unnecessary for them. Takah a chidish (brainstorm) and mamish a compliment to the Neshai Chayil. Furthermore the Meshech Chochma submits that accepting the mirrors did not simply validate or reward the actions of our blessed matriarchs, rather it served to incorporate their story into the Mikdash.
Adds the Da’as Zekeinim m’Baalay HaToisfois that the pisukkim (verses) reveal that the donated items were various types of women’s jewelry. Says he: “and nevertheless the women participated and were meticulous to contribute in the Service of Heaven”. The possik is teaching us that the men took the women to donate the gold from their jewelry to the Mishkan, thinking that the women would be reluctant to do so. However, in actuality, the women gave willingly. Therefore, the women were given a special reward and what was it? Seemingly, they were excluded from having to do work on roish choidesh. When was the last time your eishes chayil told you or the kinderlach that there’s no dinner and that she’s off due to roish choidesh? Ober you should know chevra and of course all of you mamish beautiful women (and even the not so beautiful ones) that this minhag (custom) is really cited in the Shulchan Aruch. Roish Choidesh for the unaffiliated and other bums is the beginning of a new lunar month, don’t you know anything?. He adds: that during the incident of the eygel, the overly aggressive men took their wives’ jewelry by force (and mistama them as well). In contrast, by the building of the Mishkan, the women wanted to donate their jewelry.
And what’s Roish Choidesh got to do with Mishkan? Says the Da’as Zekeinim that because the Mishkan was erected on Roish Choidesh Nissan, it was specifically Roish Choidesh Nissan which was originally given to the women as a work-free festival.
Every now and then we will hear one of our Rabbis quote from the heylige gemorrah the famous dictum, that “it is to the credit of the righteous women that our forefathers were redeemed from Egypt” (Sotah 11). The Gemorrah not only ascribes recognition to women for their central role in the redemptive process of the BNY but for their very survival throughout centuries of Egyptian bondage.
According to a second Rabbinic declaration “The Toirah should be given to the women first… because women have a singular capacity of understanding fundamental ideas” (Shemot Rabba, 25), and because “Women are eager to perform mitzvois” (ibid.). The women were given the Toirah first, the medrish insists, because it is they who teach their children “the ways of the Toirah.” (ibid.) Nu, is it a wonder that we are so attracted to them?
A gitten shabbis.