Raboyseyee and Raboyseyettes:
The chastity belt:
כב וַיָּבֹאוּ הָאֲנָשִׁים, עַל-הַנָּשִׁים; כֹּל נְדִיב לֵב, הֵבִיאוּ חָח וָנֶזֶם וְטַבַּעַת וְכוּמָז כָּל-כְּלִי זָהָב, וְכָל-אִישׁ, אֲשֶׁר הֵנִיף תְּנוּפַת זָהָב לַיה.
|22 And the men came, on the women, as many as were willing-hearted, and brought nose-rings, and ear-rings, and signet-rings, and girdles, all jewels of gold; even every man that brought an offering of gold unto the RBSO.|
Nu, it’s not often that we jump right into the heylige Toirah without first introducing the Parsha ober this possik (verse), found above and in Parshas Vayakhel (35:22), the front end of a double header with Parshas Pikuday, required further elucidation. And as you can only imagine many weighed in to interpret or try to, what went down here and to understand the true meaning of what a girdle was and why this item was donated to the Mishkan cause. The men came on the women? The women brought girdles to be donated to the holy Mishkan? Is this the heylige Toirah we’re quoting? What’s pshat? Nu, let’s find out.
And since you paid such close attention to the instructions for building the Mishkan these past few weeks (Parshas Teruma, Tetzaveh and parts of Ki Sisa), we’ll continue our focus on women this week; they do seem to be quite active, as we just read above, in the entire operation. Zicher you recall that just last week, we mentioned that the copper basin was made out of mirrors that the women brought and donated. I told you then that I would shed some light on these mirrors this week and here we go.
After a few weeks and parshios discussing plans, measurements, needed materials, blueprints and architecture, seemingly, the building department has given approval and in this week’s Parsha, we’re into the construction phase, mamish. Moishe opened the parsha by announcing that construction was about to begin and that donations were needed. Sound familiar? And the Yiddin, fresh off the entire Eygel incident and looking to climb back into the RBSO’s good graces responded with alacrity and generosity. They all came: carpenters, metalworkers and artisans- everyone wanted in. In fact, as we read just above, the men came and the possik tells us, they came on the women? Taka sounds gishmak but zicher not what the heylige Toirah is trying to teach and you’re mamish chazerim for thinking otherwise. Obviously there’s a lesson to be learned from this coming and our job is to chap what was intended. Let’s start with Rashi who avada knew all.
Ober first a shtikel introduction; it’s a construction project, let’s lay the groundwork. Last week we mentioned that the heylige froyen (ladies) brought their mirrors which they somehow had time and space to pack as they left Mitzrayim and attempted to donate, as one of the materials, for the construction of the Mishkan. Although they were chased out of Mitzrayim in the middle of the night seemingly the Yiddin had time to pack gold, silver, and just about everything including mirrors. Everything that is, except for a few farkakte loaves of bread. Nu, the good people who bake matzo also have to make parnoso. Says Rashi (38:8): that Moishe initially refused to accept the mirrors for he found them disgusting. How could a mirror be disgusting? Doesn’t it but reflect the image of the person looking into it? Ober, Moishe was klerring (thinking) that these mirrors were used to incite the Yetzer horo (evil inclination): not that this bad boy needs any help, if you chap. What happened next?
The RBSO commanded him to accept the mirrors because the women had used these mirrors to rouse their exhausted husbands while slaves in Mitzrayim. As you all should avada remember, the men were out working hard all day and came home exhausted; isn’t that what slaves do? Uncharacteristically, the neshay chayil (women), were epes in the mood, seduced their men using the mirrors, resulting in the men having to work even harder to please their women. And they did! The women became trugidik (pregnant), and taka delivered many, many children. Shoin! As Rashi sees it, the mirrors were used to draw the yetzer hara’s attention. Exactly what having relations with the eishes chayil after a long day has to do with the yetzer horo, nu, this I don’t chap. Isn’t it more logical that not having relations with the eishes chayil, would evoke and epes get the yetzer horo stirring? Ver veyst? Bottom line: Moishe accepted the mirrors but not toward the Mishkan, instead they were used to build the copper basin. Taka a beautiful story but it’s not quite over. Let’s read that possik above one more time. Says the heylige Toirah that the women also brought the ‘Kumaz’ which Moishe gladly accepted as a suitable donation for the Mishkan project. And what is it? Nu, some say that the Kumaz is a girdle. Rabaynu Art Scroll doesn’t touch it, I mean translate the word at all and others say it was epes some sort of a belt that hung epes near the private zone, if you chap, which one couldn’t with the area sealed. Says Rashi (35:22): it was a type of ornamentation placed opposite the private part of a woman’s body? Our chachomim (sages) [Shabbos 64a] explain the name כּוּמָז as [an acrostic]: כַּאן מְקוֹם זִמָּה [meaning] here is the place of lewdness..oy vey! And why didn’t Moishe express similar reservations about accepting the kumaz? Let’s find out.
Nu, many Meforshim touch upon this, if you chap, and offer answers. Some say that the purpose of the Kumaz was to stop someone else from being Mezaneh (having forbidden relations) with the woman wearing it. It was protection against the Mezaneh, the perpetrator, that chazir. According to this pshat, the Kumaz wasn’t used for zenus or to enhance pleasure or activity in the region, punkt-farkert (quite the opposite): rather it was used as protection against it. In other words: it was a chastity belt, efsher the first ever. And for that reason, Moishe was willing to take it as a donation. Givaldig mamish! Moishe wouldn’t take a mirror that but reflected images but accepted an item that was south of the border? And leave the women without protection?
Ober he was Moishe Rabaynu and zicher he knew what he was doing and says the Chasam Soifer (not to be confused with one the myriad Yeshivas the Oisvorfer had the pleasure of attending) that the Kumaz and other items the women brought were all melted down and their original state altered. Therefore, though this item was near or touching the forbidden zone, in its new state, it was not recognizable and any tumah associated with that item, now gone. Nu, geloibt der Abisheter (thank the good Lord). Ober the mirrors were seemingly kept in their original state and Moishe was epes a shtikel reluctant to take them knowing that they were a tool, an enhancer of sexual activity and though this activity was avada leshaim shomayim (isn’t it always), he was shy about these items and found them repugnant. A shtikel prudish, ver veyst? Ober the RBSO who knows all, avada knew about the purity in the hearts of all these women and instructed Moishe to accept the mirrors. The RBSO noted that the mirrors were in fact tools of shalom bayis and thus should be accepted (Rashi: 38:8). Nu, at times tolls are also needed to enhance sholom bayis. Whatever.
Says another Medrish that the kumaz was an accessory worn on a woman’s genitals! Nu, that sounds givaldig and now one can chap the other words in the possik, but why wasn’t Moishe repulsed by accepting such an object? Says the Ramban, not to worry. The kumaz was given along with many other types of jewelry and was therefore butil (nullified) in the mixture with the other accessories. Shoin! In other words: the stam melting of the Kumaz would not be enough to purify it once used on the lower region but the combination of melting and it being butil in the mixture with other jewels, that made everything kosher. Gishmak mamish!
And now that we discovered and covered the Kumaz, let’s learn the beginning of the possik for it too cries out for illumination. So let’s read that again please. “And they came, men on top of women, as many as were willing-hearted….” So what taka happened here? The men on top of the women, or they came together, what’s pshat here? Has this ever happened before or since, if you chap?
Says Rashi and who chapped better: The words ‘with or on the women’ Heb. עַלהַנָּשִׁים, lit., mean that the jewelry they were planning to donate and taka did, was still on the women. The men came with the women and [stood] near them, meaning that they brought bracelets and earrings while they were still on [i.e., being worn by] the women. You see? Everything can be explained so beautifully, givaldig mamish!
Grada this pshat is quite logical especially so if you recall that just last week we learned that the women refused to donate to the Eygel and that their husbands mamish pulled their jewels off them. Now a week later, for this very noble cause, given that the Mishkan was built to atone for the great sin of the Eygel they “brought bracelets and earrings while they were still on the women.” Where these women found replacement earrings and others jewels in the midbar in such a short time, ver veyst? Efsher they used the mirrors to pleasure their husbands and made new jewelry, ver veyst? Ober we can posit that the midbar was, as we have come to understand, a magical place and just like it had Munn, it could just as easily have had replacement jewelry. The RBSO can do it all, we just have to believe.
Says Rabbeinu Bechaye: that the women in fact came first to donate their jewelry, and the men only came after them. This, he explains, demonstrates their righteousness in and of itself but it also reflects positively on an earlier incident involving jewelry at the scene of the Eygel. When the men demanded that Aharoin make a statue, he told them to remove the women’s jewelry. However, the women refused to give over their jewelry so the men took their own gold and gave that towards the building of the Golden Calf. And according to this pshat, the women still had their original jewelry, the Eygel having been formed out of male jewelry. And from that lone incident, it’s epes not totally clear why the women refused to give their jewelry. One could’ve thought that their main motivation was their natural attachment to their jewelry, and avada we all know how women make and keep jewelry, if you chap, as opposed to pure motivation of refusal to be involved in that dastardly and despicable avayro. However, in this week’s parsha we taka see that the women were very willing to donate their jewelry towards the elevated purpose of the building of the Mishkan. And huvar hadovor limafrayah (retroactively it is confirmed) about the reason that they did not give their jewelry at the Golden Calf. It was not because of their attachment to gold and silver, because that did not prevent the women from parting with them for the sake of the Mishkan. Rather, their refusal to give towards the Golden Calf emanated from leshaim Shamayim (pure) motives – they wanted no part in that terrible sin.
One interesting point with this pshat will take us back to the Kumaz which the possik tells us was also included as one of the times that the men and women came (together) and donated. One has to wonder …………if the women came wearing their jewels, were they also still wearing their protective Kumaz and if so, did the men rip this off as well? Nu, so much for cheap locks. It would obviously be the height of non-tznius to bring the kumaz while still on the woman. Who tore it off and was there a checkpoint, efsher a TSA agent? What was she to do once it was donated?
Ober says the Sifsay Chachomim: the reason that the men came together with the women was because we do not accept tzedoko from women, except for a small amounts. And says the Ramban: “The reason [it says] that ‘the men came on the women’ is in order [to express] that the generosity to give their jewelry was more prevalent among the women — they all had jewelry [as did the men], [but the women] immediately took off their nose rings and [finger] rings, and came [forward] first. The reason it says ‘on’ is because the women who were first [are considered primary in this case] and the men secondary to them.”
As we get to Pikuday, three months have gone by and that’s taka how it feels when listening to the laining of a double header while sitting in shul. The project is closed and the books are closing but not without an accounting. The RBSO orders that Moishe give an audited accounting report of all the goods he took in as donations for the Mishkan project. And why not? Should one person be trusted with all that and not have to account? Isn’t that how people, Shuls and organizations get Madoff’d? Is Moishe under suspicion? What was taka the primary reason for Moishe’s detailed accounting of the costs of the Mishkan?
Chazal commented that there were apparently some who suspected that Moishe might have been on the take, if you chap – chas v’sholom, say it’s not so, please, and that efsher he kept some of their Sanctuary contributions for his own use. Maybe the union gave him a shtikel kickback. There are a plethora of Medroshim that discuss this very issue; seemingly, though the Yiddin were just forgiven for the Eygel mishap, still, the troublemakers now turned their attention to Moishe and his stockpiles of gold, etc. Accordingly, he responded by showing one and all that every single coin and article contributed was indeed used for the Mishkan. Avada we should learn from this the importance of not judging another person too hastily, but do we?
On the other hand- says the Medrish Tanchuma azoy (like this): Always appoint at least two people together as trustees over public funds. Even Moishe Rabaynu, who enjoyed the full trust of the RBSO–figured the accounts of the Mishkan (Sanctuary) together with others. Thus the chachomim (sages) taught: the one who made the appropriation [of the monies donated to the Holy Temple] did not enter the chamber wearing either a hemmed cloak or shoes or sandals or tefillin or an amulet (i.e., nothing in which money can be hidden); lest if he became poor people might say that he became poor because of an iniquity committed in the chamber, or if he became rich people might say that he became rich from the appropriation in the chamber. For it is a man’s duty to be free of blame before men as before the RBSO, as it is said: “And be guiltless towards the RBSO and towards Israel.” Seemingly, Moishe Rabaynuu couldn’t catch a break. And the bottom line: when it comes to money, people are, and will sadly always remain jealous imfarginners!
Nu, following his own accounting, it’s time for the audit and who better to bring in but your own nephew to verify your own numbers. What a plan and who would suspect? Avada, there were a few cries of foul over nepotism issues, ober that’s what the RBSO said to do. So, Moishe brings in someone totally independent: Isomor (Itamar) ben(son of) Aharoin (his brother) to audit and verify his calculations. Does it get any more independent than one’s own nephew? Moishe does this so no one will suspect him of pocketing any of the nose rings and other interesting donations (girdles) he received from the veyber (women)? Ver veyst?
Taka somewhat boring, accounting can be that way- ober- listen to the amounts of gold – silver and copper that the BNY donated to the building of the mishkan and when you realize the enormity of these contributions, zicher you’ll be wondering where the hec all this came from. In the midbar noch der tzi (especially in the desert). And you’ll finally understand why we eat matzoh on Pesach. Why? Because the BNY had no time to bake the bread on their way out for their extended trip, that’s what the heylige Toirah states. Growing up and learning the story of Exodus, didn’t you feel bad for the Yiddin and picture them being chased out of Mitzrayim in the dead of night, carrying whatever possessions they had in their hands or in baskets? And when we read the story of how there was no time for the yeast to rise, didn’t you mamish feel so bad that nebech you wanted to cry? What were they going to eat, those poor lads? Ober, was it really that bad? Did you ever realize what they were carrying with them? Can you even have imagined the tonnage of gold, silver and copper they were schlepping along? And let’s not forget the bathroom mirrors. Zicher now we understand why they had no time to bake the bread; who cared about bread?
Why? Because they were looting Mitzrayim- cleaning them out of gold, silver and copper. Nu- given the choice between gold and bread, avada you understand what the Yiddin were thinking. Perhaps a stiff necked people but stupid not! Many loaves of bread, even whole wheat, have been purchased with gold but have you ever bought an ounce of gold with a slice of bread?
Perhaps we should be celebrating Peasch b’zman hazeh (in our times) by looting our neighbors’ houses of gold, silver and cooper and that would taka be a good reason to call the Yoim Toiv- chag somayach. Is it really joyous when we gain 7 pounds because we’re ungeshtuppped (overstuffed) from eating farkakte matzoh?
And speaking of women’s contributions to the holy work of the Mishkan, this week the Oisvorfer pays tribute and thanks his eishes chayil Lisa, who, though she doesn’t part with her jewelry, does give tirelessly of her time – often late at night when others are making jewelry- to read and edit these givaldige thoughts weekly. Thank you.
A gitten shabbis-