Gathering Sources : Pekudei

Some material for exploring the weekly Torah portion, Pekudei — sometimes transliterated as Pekude(y) or P’kude  — (Exodus 38:21-40:38):

A Path to Follow — weaving and women’s work

Language and Translation — storytelling continuity

Something to Notice — the colors!

Great Sources — Chapters into Verse and Charles Reznikoff

This is part of a series of weekly “gathering sources” posts, collecting previous material on the weekly Torah portion, most originally part of a 2010 series called “Opening the Book.”

Pekudei: A Path to Follow

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.

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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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Pekudei: Something to Notice

The colors.

Before we complete the Tabernacle and leave Exodus/Shemot, I must pause to consider the oft-mentioned color trio: “tekhelet, v’argaman v’tolaat shani.” These colors are central in the tent instructions/construction and appear throughout the priestly garments. The same colors are, of course, prominent in contemporary Jewish textiles and other arts.


Tekhelet — Blue, Sky Blue or Indigo.


Argaman — Purple.


Tolaat shani — Scarlet or Crimson.

“Blue Wheat,” “Ode to Overturning Bowers vs. Hardwick” and “Pink Pomegranate” (looks scarlet to me) — above — are all works by DC-area artist Judybeth Greene.


The quilt below was made by Amy Leila Smith, of Blue Feet Studio in Maine, for the National Havurah Committee.

…seems fitting closure for a portion which focuses on weaving, long a woman’s art. See, e.g., Women’s Work, the First 20,000 Years: Women, Cloth and Society in Early Times by Elizabeth Wayland Barber (Norton, 1994).

For more on the special history of tekhelet blue, see Ehud Spanier’s history (details in Source Materials).

[CAUTION on print and internet sources focusing on these three colors, especially tekhelet: Many involved in reconstructing exact colors of the Tabernacle and related work are deeply concerned with preparing for the Third Temple.]

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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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Continue Reading

Pekudei: Language and Translation

“And these are the names [v’eileh] of the Children of Israel who were coming [ha-ba’im] to Egypt…”
— Exodus/Shemot 1:1

“…throughout their journeys [mas’eyhem].”
— Exodus/Shemot 40:38 (Stone translation*)

A number of commentaries note that the vav (a conjunction which can mean “and” or “but”) is meant to link the narrative of Genesis with that launched with Exodus. In an unusual bit of similarity, both the Stone and Alter* commentaries make this point and also remark that identical words open the genealogy beginning at Genesis/Breishit 46:8.

Stone emphasizes the on-going nature of the narrative by using “were coming” for “ha-ba’im,” while Alter and others use the past tense. JPS* bridges the two with “came, each coming with…”

Alter also notes that the word mas’eyhem [in all their journeyings] uses “the same verbal stem [that] inaugurated the Wilderness narrative in 13:20, ‘And they journeyed from Succoth,'” suggesting that this helps leave a “sense of harmonious consummation,” as the work of the Tabernacle — likened to that of Creation — is completed. “But,” he continues:

the condition in which the Israelites find themselves remains unstable, uncertain, a destiny of wandering through arduous wasteland toward a promised land that is not yet visible on the horizon. The concluding words of Exodus point forward not to the Book of Leviticus, which immediately follows, but to the Book of Numbers, with its tales of Wilderness wanderings, near catastrophic defections, and dangerous tensions between the leader and the led.
— Alter, p.535

Chazak! Chazak! 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.

Pekudei: Great Source(s)

As Exodus comes to a close, this poem seems appropriate:

“Exodus” by Charles Reznikoff

…But there came a Pharaoh who knew not Joseph
and set us building treasuries and cities,
set us making brick for him and building cities:
we who had been masters of our days and daylight,
free to wander, free to stay.
King and servants, priests and laymen;
soldiers and overseers, and slaves:
this was Egypt’s peace and order,
and in this order we were slaves:
Israel like a bird that a creeping weasel has wounded in the head
or a man knocked against a wall;
the cattle have trampled it — but still it flutters.

But there came a shepherd from the desert,
speaking in the ancient tongue
all but our eldest had forgotten;
and we saw an old man — withered hands and haunches;
and he said to us, stuttering as he spoke:
I bring a message from the God of your fathers
and, in place of these burdens,
I bring you — the yoke of His law.
How pleasant it is, distinguished from the beasts,
to feed upon His law
tasting each syllable
the radiance of our Lord!
If there is bone enough to make the tooth of a key
and ink enough to write two letters of the alphabet —
then fear not the rush of tramping shoes nor the sound of the shouting

and hurry out of this land!
— found in Chapters into Verse

Reznikoff includes notes indicating that the italicized lines at the end of these two stanzas (of a four-stanza poem) “are from the Mishnah (Hullin 3:3 and other places, Danby’s translation).” The ink and bone references can be found in Babylonian Talmud Shabbat 78b.

You can read the entire poem at Google Books. See Source Materials for Chapters into Verse details. The poem is also found in The Poems of Charles Reznikoff

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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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