Speaking of weaving and women’s work…
SERAKH BAT ASHER THE HISTORIAN ADDS: Since we were principally a sheepherding people in ancient times, Israelite women mostly wove wool. Some even say that it was we women of Israel who first introduced colored wool garments into Egypt. For did not Joseph have a splendid “coat of many colors”!
THE SAGES IN OUR OWN TIME ADD: Modern scholars have found pictures of colored garments in Egyptian tomb paintings dating from about the time Jacob’s clan supposedly arrived in Goshen. Anad not only did the Israelite women bring technical expertise to Egypt; they probably acquired from their Egyptian sisters the special technique of splicing and twisting linen that first appears in Canaan about the time the Israelites would have arrived from the Nile Delta.
MIRIAM ADDS: As it is written: “EACH WOMAN SHALL BORROW FROM HER NEIGHBORS” (3:22)
BERURIAH THE SCHOLAR TEACHERS: The Torah describes the women in the wilderness who spin linen and goats’ hair “WITH THEIR HANDS” as “WISEHEARTED” (35:25). Similarly in the Book of Proverbs (31:13, 19, 22, 24-25), a “WOMAN OF VALOR” is described largely in terms of her weaving skills:
She looks for wool and flax
And sets her hand to them with a will….
She sets her hand to the distaff;
Her fingers work the spindle….
She makes covers for herself:
Her clothing is linen and purple….
She makes cloth and sells it,
And offers a girdle to the merchant,
She is clothed with strength and splendor.
— Ellen Frankel, The Five Books of Miriam*
And weaving women’s work
Some final thoughts, paths to pursue — on the portion, the Book of Exodus and Passover — from the work of more contemporary wise women:
It’s good to meet with friends at the well, because it’s hard work hauling water, and doing innumerable humble chores, like so many women have for so long. Of course men also strive, like Jacob and Moses lifting stone well covers, but I’m thinking about Rivka watering all those camels; that was heavy duty (Genesis 24.46). Rachel, Hagar, Miriam and Zipporah have dramatic associations with wells. In Torah stories women spend a lot of time bearing water. Although much of that kind of work is easily perceived as insignificant, or sentimentalized as a labor of love, the world we know and ha’olam haba, depend upon it….
In this American song* a woman brings water to a man working in the fields. It comes from the history of people whose slave labor built the wealth of our nation….
What if we learned to respect and to know about all the people who have ever done for us?
Don’t let the work of their hands go unsung,
— Amy Brookman, Exodus1verse8 *link updated from the one in original post, which is gone now
AND THEN I SIT. “Dom l’Yah, v’hitcholello.” “Be still,” Psalm 37 tells us,”and wait for God.”
The final sentence of The Book of Exodus, the manual for our liberation, tells us that we must cultivate an awareness of God’s mysterious presence, characterized by the Divine cloud in the day and an inner fire at night. This awareness will guide us throughout our journeys.
— From Torah Journeys, Shefa Gold
Chazkei! Chazkei! Venitchazeik!
Be strong! Be strong! And may we be strengthened!
* Please see Source Materials for full citations and additional information.
The “Opening the Book” series was originally presented in cooperation with the independent, cross-community Jewish Study Center and with Kol Isha, an open group that for many years pursued spirituality from a woman’s perspective at Temple Micah (Reform). “A Song Every Day” is an independent blog, however, and all views, mistakes, etc. are the author’s.
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