Parshas Vayakhel - Pikudei
WISDOM OF THE WOMEN
This Shabbos, we complete the Book of Shemos - Exodus -
with the construction of the Mishkan, this microcosm of the spiritual world by means of
which we brought Hashem into our midst. The Jewish people showed themselves to be
devoted servants of Hashem in their generous donation of materials for the Mishkan, and in
their enthusiastic willingness to participate in the actual building. To use the
Torah's own oft-repeated expression, their "hearts stirred them up" to the task.
To answer our second question first, Rashi explains that these mirrors were used by the Jewish women in Egypt to beautify themselves, and entice their exhausted and demoralized husbands to have relations with them...thereby continuing the chain of generations of the Jewish people. Through these mirrors, myriads of Jews were created; it was only through the foresight of these brave, wise ladies that the Jewish people survived the Egyptian exile.
This is one type of wisdom that the women--with their special "hearts of wisdom"-- demonstrated: to care for their people, and act on their behalf.
Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch beautifully notes the inner connection between these copper mirrors and the basin which was made from them:
The women, by means of the mirrors, sanctified the sensual by elevating it to serve the noblest of purposes: the preservation of the Jewish people. Therefore, they serve as the material for the basin, from which the Kohanim sanctified their hands and feet through a daily ritual washing--a constant reminder to them to elevate all their "acts and efforts" to the level of godliness.
Another type of wisdom was displayed by the women who spun the goats' hair, special enough to earn them mention in a separate verse (to return to our first question). Again, we turn to Rav Hirsch:
These women showed unusual skill in the method by which they spun: they were able to spin the wool from right off the goat's back. Moreover, they showed the special chochmah of choosing a task that perfectly expressed their modest nature.
It is no exaggeration to say that we are all here today thanks to the greatness of the Jewish women. Time and again in our history, they remained steadfast in their faith and devotion...even as the men were giving up hope or going off track. Remember that the ladies didn't participate in making the Golden Calf. They didn't slander the Land of Israel in the incident of the meraglim (spies). They were the first to donate in the making of the Mishkan. (And, since it's the season, how can we forget mentioning that they are the ones who usually bear the lion's share of the Pesach cleaning!) Although we men have to keep our heads covered, we take our hats off to you, ladies--figuratively speaking.
May the deep understanding, foresight and wisdom of the Jewish women help us all become wise, and help lead to the coming of Moshiach, speedily in our days.
Edelstein is Director
of the Savannah Torah Education Project (STEP). Phone: 912-355-0157;
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