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Posted on March 19, 2020 (5780) By Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein | Series: | Level:

Every wise-hearted woman spun with her hands.[2]

Even those who are into mind-body connections might be puzzled by this one. How does a wise heart translate into ability or artisanship at spinning?

The answer is actually simple and obvious. Many of the donors to the building of the mishkan gave generously, with all the right intentions. A smaller number was not satisfied with donating fine material. They insisted upon making the material themselves. While some people possessed spun yard and gladly offered it to the holy cause of creating a Sanctuary, others threw themselves into the work of producing it.

Even earlier, our ancestors acted similarly. They left Egypt laden with goods, all carried by animals. They did not pack their matzah-remnants in their luggage, however. Chazal[3] tell us that they lovingly carried them out on their shoulders instead,[4] wishing to bodily bear the sweet burden of a mitzvah. (This should signal to us that even the person with many servants should endeavor to personally draw the water needed to bake matzos for Pesach.)

Our take-away from this is that women should learn the craft of needle-work and weaving, so that if we merit to see the rebuilding of the beis ha-mikdosh, they will be ready to swing into action to prepare what is needed. Indeed, this must be what happened in Egypt. The “wise-hearted” women were visionary. They sensed that there would be a redemption, and that there would be a need for skilled artisans. They accustomed themselves to learning different crafts. The men did the same. Prior to achieving their full strength (at which point they would be pressed into the manufacture of bricks and mortar), they studied different crafts, to prepare themselves for the coming redemption.

This, too, was the motivating factor of ben Elashah, who expended much money to learn the art of the special haircut of the Kohen Gadol.[5] He was not interested in an historical oddity. He hoped to see the Temple’s rebuilding, and to be able to make his personal contribution to its functioning.

Less Than Top Billing (Pikudei)

The text seems to swing between extremes. In parshas Vayahkel, the entire building of the mishkan is recapitulated without once adding, “as Hashem instructed Moshe.” Yet, in parshas Pikudei – in reference to the making of the Kohen’s garments – that phrase is repeated again and again.

The difference may be the way these two projects were appreciated – or underappreciated. Everyone understood the holiness and importance of the mishkan in hosting the Shechinah. It was not difficult to get people to scrupulously obey instructions about building it correctly.

The bigdei kehunah, however, were not so well understood. They seemed to be necessary only for the “honor and splendor”[6] of the kohen who wore them. It would be easy for the workers to not be as precise or careful. Therefore the Torah emphasizes that even so, they meticulously followed the holy instructions that were given to them, and did not deviate in the slightest.

  1. Based on Meshivas Nafesh by R. Yochanan Luria (15th cent.)
  2. Shemos 35:25
  3. Mechilta, parshah 13
  4. Shemos 12:34
  5. Sanhedrin 22b
  6. Shemos 28:40