Nehemiah – Chapter 3

Bring Your Daughter to Work Day

By Rabbi Jack Abramowitz

This chapter is 38 verses long, the first 32 of which list the people who led the groups that worked on the reconstruction of the city wall. The workers came from all strata of society, from Levites and priests (including Elyashiv the High Priest) to the families of regional governors, and from perfumers and metal smiths to traveling salesmen. The wealthiest residents of the city called Tekoah couldn’t be bothered with such “menial” labor, but a man named Shalum was assisted by his daughters. (Masonry was not then a field commonly pursued by women.) The chapter goes around the wall of Jerusalem, detailing which group worked on which section. A wide variety of landmarks are noted, many of which are easily identifiable by us today.

When Sanvalat, head of the opposition, heard about the construction, he got mad and mocked the workers in an attempt to disrupt their progress. He stirred up the Samaritans, calling the Jews weak and saying that the other nations would never let them complete the job. They would have to finish it in a day to avoid their work being undone! His compatriot Tovia added that even if they could build the wall, it would be so shoddy that a fox could topple it.

Nehemiah prayed to G-d that those who mocked should be taught a lesson, experiencing an exile of their own. He prayed that G-d not overlook the fact that they tried to distract the builders from their work, pointing out that the construction would proceed despite the annoyance. When half the wall was connected, the workers were reinvigorated and continued their task with renewed enthusiasm.

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