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Beit Midrash Torah Portion and Tanach Vayakhel


Rabbi Stewart WeissAdar I 23 5779
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We live in a generation where women are asserting themselves in every field, including public Jewish life. But guess what? The precedent for this came long, long ago.

In cataloging the many & diverse objects & materials used in the Mishkan, our sedra of Vayakhel mentions the copper basin that was used to wash & prepare the Kohanim for their avoda. Rashi points out that this basin was made from mirrors donated by the nation’s women. Moshe was reluctant to accept the mirrors, for they were used to help the women make themselves attractive, so as to entice their husbands to be intimate with them. As such, Moshe felt that was not very tzanua, modest.

But the women were insistent. They felt that these mirrors were instrumental in helping the families in Egypt to re-populate, despite their husbands' depression & fatalism. It was the women’s ability to re-introduce passion into their lives that brought Bnei Yisrael back to its full strength. And so the pasuk adds, "asher tzavu petach Ohel Moed;" they massed in protest at the Tent of Meeting. And in a rare occurrence, Hashem overrules Moshe & tells him to enthusiastically accept the mirrors; they were perfectly suited to prepare the kohanim for their holy service.

Passion, you see, is not taboo in Jewish life. Quite the opposite – every Mitzva, every Minhag should be done with anticipation, excitement & unabashed passion.

Earlier in the parsha, we were told that the Nesi’im, the princes of the nation, had donated the precious stones for the Ephod. But the word "nesi’im" here is spelled deficiently; the two Yuds – which form the name of Hashem – are conspicuously missing.

The princes had decided to "hold back" to see what the general populace would donate, & then they’d "fill in the blanks" to complete the inventory. But the people responded so generously & abundantly, that virtually nothing remained. So the princes had to scramble to come up with the gems, & not be left out completely. Their intention was quite noble; they guaranteed that the needs of the Mishkan would be met, no matter what. But G-d was not pleased; he wanted everyone – pedestrian & prince – to be so filled with a fervor to help that they would rush forward as quickly as they could. When the Nesi’im delayed, Hashem "removed his name" from them to show His disapproval. (Later, at the Mishkan’s dedication, the Nesi’im would atone for their complacence & come forward first, enthusiastically, to bring their offerings.

The Eagles said it so well: "You're afraid you might fall out of fashion, & you're feeling cold and small. But any kind of love without passion, ain't no kind of lovin' at all."
Rabbi Stewart Weiss
Was ordained at the Hebrew Theological College in Skokie, Illinois, and led congregations in Chicago and Dallas prior to making Aliyah in 1992. He directs the Jewish Outreach Center in Ra'anana, helping to facilitate the spiritual absorption of new olim.
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