Women Take Lead
In Building Mishkan
Parshat VaYachayl: Exodus 35:1-
40:38; I Kings 7:40-50.
Not only were women
more generous than
men, but they also
were more eager to
construct the Mishkan.
Their yearning to live a
Godly life was stronger.
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A depiction of the Mishkan
n this week's Torah portion
VaYachayl, Moshe tells the people
of God's command to donate
material and labor for the construc-
tion of the Mishkan, the Tabernacle.
The Torah tells of their overwhelm-
ing support and generosity for the proj-
ect. The people bring more
than enough, until Moshe
has to tell them to stop
What is particularly nota-
ble is that in regard to only
two of the many materials
donated and used in the
construction of the Mishkan
does the Torah specify
where they came from.
The Torah tells us (Exodus
35:22) that the gold came
from the golden jewelry of
the women and that the copper for the
wash-basins came from the copper mir-
rors that the women donated. It seems
that the women were willing to give up
their very personal belongings, beyond
their monetary value, for the construc-
tion of the Mishkan and the service of
God. Their sacrifice of these objects
certainly was greater than the donations
the men made simply of their wealth.
In addition, the verses specifically
tell of the labor donated by the women
(Exodus 35:25-26). In fact, the very
verse that speaks of their giving up
their golden jewelry (Exodus 35:22)
contains an unusual usage that is inter-
preted by many (see Ramban, Malbim,
Hirsch, Midrash HaGodol) as indicat-
ing that the women were even more
eager to give than the men.
Apparently, not only were the
women more generous than the men,
but they also were more eager to con-
struct the Mishkan. Their yearning to
bring God into their lives and to live
a Godly life (which, in my opinion, is
what the Mishkan repre-
sented) was stronger than
that of the men.
It seems to me that all too
often in our male-dominated
society, the contributions of
the women and their desire
to participate in creating
a Godly community is not
fully acknowledged or appre-
ciated. We tend not only to
take these achievements for
granted or minimize them,
but also, quite often, limit
the constructive participation that our
women can, and are willing, to offer.
Let us resolve to appreciate and to
maximize the contributions and par-
ticipation of our women, just as the
Torah does in our Torah portion. i 1
Eliezer Cohen is rabbi of Or Chadash
of Oak Park/Huntington Woods.
How and why is the participation
of women limited in our Jewish
How can such participation be
What contributions of women
are taken for granted?
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