Gathering Sources: Vayakhel

Some material for exploring the weekly Torah portion, Vayakhel — sometimes transliterated as Vayak’ hel or Vayak’heil  —
(Exodus 35:1-38:20):

Something to Notice: Constructive Wisdom

Language and Translation — “Betzalel”

A Path to Follow: Women, children, and other usually invisible Israelites

Great Sources: Midrash on mirrors

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.”

Vayakhel: A Path to Follow

In this portion, and this portion alone, the women of the children of Israel are identified as a significant group within the larger whole,” writes R. Nancy H. Weiner in her dvar Torah, “Of Women and Mirrors.”

The Torah unequivocally highlights that women are participating in the single most important sacred endeavor of the community of Israel’s collective existence: the building of the mishkan, the place in which God’s presence will dwell among the people and travel with them as they journey toward the Promised Land.

And then the narrative takes a significant turn. The efforts of the entire community become the backdrop for the tasks taken on by the great (male) architects and craftsmen of the mishkan. The portion mentions the contributions of women only once more as it describes the labors of Betzalel, the chief architect of the mishkan. The Torah says, “He made the laver of copper and its stand of copper, with the mirrors of the women who served at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting (Exod 38:8)…
— Weiner, in The Women’s Torah Commentary

One path to follow is to look at the role of women in the ancient Israelite world. The work of Tikva Frymer-Kensky comes to mind as a starting point.

But Weiner herself suggests another path: “…[Women] are not the only victims of collective amnesia…” Look at less visible Jewish communities of today — Kulanu or Bechol Lashon [In Every Tongue].

The entire piece, “Of Women and Mirrors,” is available at GoogleBooks, The Women’s Torah Commentary.*

* 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.

Vayakhel: Something to Notice

“…but the materials were more than enough [vehoter] for all the work that had to be done.” — Exodus/Shemot 36:7

Construction of the Tabernacle in the desert was an act that paralleled the creation of heaven and earth and corresponded to all known aspects of the order in which G’d created the universe, (B’rachot 55). Seeing that this was so, Betzalel, the chief architect of the project was granted the wisdom to understand how the letters of the aleph bet were to be used in carrying out all the details of the task entrusted to him.

Nowadays, this ability of Betzalel at the time of his building of the Tabernacle, has been granted to the righteous Torah scholars of varying degrees, who are able to reveal insights into the Torah that have not previously been revealed. By doing so, they become partners of G’d in His creation of the universe. Betzalel also imposed restrictions on himself in his use of the gift G’d gave him, so as not to preempt the Torah scholars throughout the ages an to thereby prevent them from revealing new insights. This is what is meant by the word [vehoter], “there was an overabundance,” i.e. there was enough holy spirit that had been provided to enable Betzalel and his assistants to build the Tabernacle, but instead of exhausting it at the time, Betzalel, in his modesty, was content to leave a surfeit of it to be used by Torah scholars, who in a way are also Torah “architects,” to delight their audiences with their insights in their respective generations.
— Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev, Kedushat Levi,* p.525-6

* Please see Source Materials for full citation 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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Vayakhel: Great Source(s)

He made the laver out of copper, and its base out of copper, from the mirrors of the serving women (tzovot) who served at the entrance of the tabernacle. — Ex. 38:8

Miriam was a teacher of women. — Targum Micah 6:4

“Each of you is made in the image of God,” Miriam explained. “Your soul and your speech are like God’s, and your body is God’s dwelling place. Each of you embodies the Divine presence in a different way. When you look into your mirror, you see a woman, bu you also see the Divine image. If a man were to look into your mirror, he would see a man, but he would also see God. This is what the Torah means when it says: God created the adam in his own image, in the image of God he created him, male and female he created them. God is like the mirror: God remains the same, but reflects each of our images differently, men and women, young and old. This is why, when we study together, we can reveal different facets of the Torah to each other. Each of us is different reflection of the One.”

…They made a covenant with one another to return again and again to the door of the Tent of Meeting, to pray, to study and see the their faces in the basin made form their mirrors. And in that company Miriam was often heard to teach: On account of the one God’s many images is the Eternal called Adonai Tze’vaot, Lord of Hosts; and some say, Adonai Tzovot, God of the women who serve the Divine dwelling-place.
— Jill Hammer, “The Mirror”

This midrash can be found in All the Women Followed Her (see Source Materials for details) and in Sisters at Sinai.

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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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