Wednesday, March 02, 2005

II-10 Vayakhel From The Heart

2 March II-10 Vayakhel From The Heart

Torah: Ex 35-38:20 JPS
At Jewish Theological Seminary of America

Haftorah: II Kgs 12:1-17 JPS


1. Ex 35:1-20
2. Ex 35:21-29
3. Ex 35:30-36:7
4. Ex 36:8-19
5. Ex 36:20-37:16
6. Ex 37:17-29
7. Ex 38:1-20


The Mishkan making is resumed after the Golden Calf Event, often interpreted as a form of atonement for the sin of idolatry. It opens with an exhortation for keeping the Shabbat, admonishing the Israelites to do the work in six days, but on the seventh day, rest. Regardless of how elaborate or monumental a project, limitations need to be set before beginning. Work in life is never completed, therefore God warns us to make space and time sacred for His Presence. Belalzel and Oholiab are the master craftsman overseeing the projects. Detailed activities of the women are related, emphasizing the importance of each person and individual gifts within the community. No gift is too small for the eyes of the beloved. Just as a fiancee seeks to find favor in her beau, we should seek to please God, the lover of all mankind. We should beautify our lives to attract the pleasure of His gaze.


Thus the Israelites, all the men and women whose hearts moved them to bring anything for the work that the Lord, through Moses, had commanded to be done, brought it as a freewill offering to God. Ex 35:29

He [Bezalel] made the laver of copper and its stand of copper from the mirrors of the women who performed tasks at the entrance of the Tent of meeting. Ex 38:8

The King has brought me to his chambers.
Let us delight and rejoice in your love,
Savoring it more than fine wine—Song of Songs 1:4

Let me be as a seal upon your heart,
Like the seal upon your hand.
For love is fierce as death... Song of Songs 8:6


The master Artist Belazel made the Kior, the laver, and the stand from the copper from the mirrors presented to him from the women. Midrash relates that when the Israelites were in Egypt that the men were so oppressed with labor they had no desire for life. Their wives would go out to the fields to meet them, taking with them some food and distract their husbands from their hardships. By beautifying themselves and playing with the mirrors, they would beguile them to love.

Vanity? No. The women longed for the companionship of their husbands, driven into hard labor. With few resources, they had only themselves to offer. Brides go frantic as their wedding day approaches, fussing over their physical appearance, joining exercise clubs to be particularly buff on that special day. Afraid that they are not beautiful, they fear rejection. A girlfriend frets when a birthday cake for her boyfriend goes flat in the oven. She crawls under the table if her mascara runs in the rain or a tear appears in the hosiery. The yearning for acceptance nearly drives some people crazy with elaborate self-improvement programs; but these women had only themselves to give. Throughout literature, mirrors are not only used as a symbol of vanity, but far more often a symbol of unveiling the soul. "Mirror, mirror on the wall," says the cruel queen, "who is the fairest of them all?"

The lines do not betray her beauty, but her jealousy and evil intent in her heart. This is why folklore states that vampyres cannot be seen in mirrors—they hav no souls. The mirrors the women pass to their husbands are reflections of their own yearning to give of themselves. In love, there are few secrets and many sorrows shared together. The lover seeks to bring happiness to the beloved, helping him achieve his desires. The emphasis is giving from one to the other, not taking. Without the attention from their wives, the men's lives are unmeaningful and without reward. Through their wives, they find beauty in the world and a renewed desire to live: purpose shared within the secrecy of two souls, each yearning for fulfilment in the other. No one is made to be completely alone or completely unloved. No one can survive long in a world of hardship without human compassion. The soul yearns for fulfilment in the eyes of the other.

The mirrors became the laver and washstand for the Kohen to wash their hands and feet before assuming their religious duties. Hands represent the deeds we do and feet travel the paths we go, both requiring purification before God. Hands and feet should be purified by the desire to give of ourselves with our whole hearts, just as the wives desired to ease their husbands sorrows and provide comfort and reassurance in their lives. They had only themselves to give; we should contemplate our personal sacrifices of love.

In the late evening, the mystics, dressed in their best, went out in the fields to greet the Shabbat bride. "Le chai dodi, likrat Shabbat..." traditionally greets the Shabbat as the stars appear. We yearn to return to the divine, finding solace in God and celebrating the creation of the universe and the escape from slavery. Man seeks God in the hardships of his life, and the Shekinah leads him into the Divine Presence

When the Israelites departed into the Wilderness, the Shekinah went before them, guiding them by day in a cloud and at night in a pillar of fire. So God's Spirit leads us back from daily slavery into His Divine Presence.. Our lives are redeemed His love for his people, guiding us through the wilderness and personal oppression in this world.


Tell the Israelite people to bring Me gifts; you shall accept gifts for Me from every person whose heart moves him. II-7 Terumah Ex 25:1-2, 8

Say therefore unto the Israelite people: I am the Lord. I will free you from the labors of the Egyptians and deliver you from their bondage. I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and through extraordinary chastisements. And I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God. II-2 Bo Ex 6:6-7

You have seen what I have done with the Egyptians, how I bore you on eagles' wings and brought you to Me. among all peoples. Indeed all the earth is mine, but hyou shall be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. II- 5 Yitro Ex 19:4-5


Rabbi Aron Tendler, Rabbi's Notebook Vayakhel 5763: Vayakhel & Shekalim - Intent Speaks Louder Than Action

Rabbi Aron Tendler, Rabbi's Notebook Vayakhel 5762: It's the Thought that Counts

Rabbi Lauren Eichler Berkun, JTSA Shabbat Shekalim, Vayakhel 5763

explanation of the mirrors

Rav Frand, Vaykhel 5762: Women Symbolize the Power of Renewal

Rav Frand, Vayakhel 5757: Mirrors Appropriate Component of Vessel Used to Sanctify Hands & Feet
look halfway down the page: Kiyyor, Kior, Laver

Rabbi Ismar Schorsch, JTSA Vayakhel 5757: Feminism and Orthodoxy

Rabbi Matthew Berkowitz, JTSA, Va-Yakhel 5760

Rabbi Yisroel Ciner, Parsha Insights, Vayakhel 5758
story of Rav Nachum


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