Holy Bling

Holy Bling

Mar 12, 2021 By Amy Kalmanofsky | Commentary | Pekudei | Vayak-hel

I loved rummaging through my grandmother’s jewelry. To my child’s eye, her jewelry box was a treasure chest filled with sparkling gems, pearls, and gold. All “paste,” I learned, but to me they were the crown jewels.

Read More
Those Whose Hearts Lift Them

Those Whose Hearts Lift Them

Mar 18, 2020 By Nicole Wilson-Spiro | Commentary | Pekudei | Vayak-hel

When I lived in South Philly, I fell in love with the Mummers, an annual parade and show on New Year’s Day and part of the fabric of the neighborhood throughout the year. Mummers dress in elaborate costumes and “strut” down Broad Street, while playing music and handing out beaded necklaces and New Year’s greetings to enthusiastic crowds. While some Mummers merely enjoy the opportunity to cavort in silly costumes in various stages of drunkenness, other Mummers clubs are intensely competitive, guarding the secret of their yearly themes with a vengeance and working throughout the year to prepare a spectacle.

Read More
Bezalel and Oholiav: Models Then, Models Now

Bezalel and Oholiav: Models Then, Models Now

Mar 1, 2019 By Matthew Berkowitz | Commentary | Vayak-hel

Parashat Vayak-hel is replete with the material details of the Tabernacle and its wares. This sacred building project becomes the focus of Israelite energy in the latter part of the Book of Exodus. But more than the project itself is the quality of the people behind it. Vayak-hel pointedly and poetically reintroduces us to Bezalel and Oholiav, the master artisans responsible for the construction of the Tabernacle and its appurtenances. What makes these two individuals worthy of this sacred task?

Read More
The Give and Take of Strength

The Give and Take of Strength

Mar 9, 2018 By Eliezer B. Diamond | Commentary | Pekudei | Vayak-hel

Rituals of closure are common in both the secular and religious realms. An example of the first is the sounding of retreat and the lowering of the flag marking the end of the official duty day on military installations. An instance of the second is the siyyum, a liturgical ritual and festive meal that is occasioned by the completion of the study of a Talmudic tractate. Closure rituals relate not only to the past but to the future as well. On the one hand, the temporal demarcation of a past event facilitates the emergence of its distinct identity, internal coherence, and significance, thereby providing insight, understanding, and, at times, a sense of accomplishment. At the same time, by declaring an end, a closure ritual creates space in which one can—and must—begin anew; the past is to be neither prison nor refuge.

Read More
The Sanctuary and the Bomb

The Sanctuary and the Bomb

Mar 24, 2017 By Marcus Mordecai Schwartz | Commentary | Pekudei | Vayak-hel

The US gave the codename “Ivy Mike” to its first full-scale experimental thermonuclear device. Designed by of two the century’s most significant nuclear scientists, Stanisław Ulam and Edward Teller, Mike’s design was a strangely beautiful one. As historian Richard Rhodes wrote in Dark Sun: The Making of the Hydrogen Bomb: “Steel, lead, waxy polyethylene, purple-black uranium, gold leaf, copper, stainless steel, plutonium, a breath of tritium, silvery deuterium effervescent as a sea wake: Mike was a temple, tragically solomonic, invoking the powers that fire the sun.”

Read More
Wonderment and Order: A Path to the Heart

Wonderment and Order: A Path to the Heart

Mar 24, 2017 By Arnold M. Eisen | Commentary | Pekudei | Vayak-hel

The Baal Shem Tov posed a question about Parashat Pekudei that I too find most puzzling. Why are we told over and over again—10 times in the course of Exodus chapters 39–40, by my count, in addition to a declaration at the start of Parashat Vayak-hel (35:4)—that the Israelites did all they did for the Tabernacle, gave what they gave, built what they built, “as the Lord had commanded Moses.” Why not just tell us once, at the end of the account, that all they did was done in this way, for this purpose? 

Read More
A Job Well Done

A Job Well Done

Feb 26, 2011 By Abigail Treu | Commentary | Text Study | Vayak-hel

Who gets the credit for a job well done? The work of the Tabernacle was not a solo endeavor; indeed Exodus 31:6 tells us that Oholiab ben Ahisamach and “all who are skillful” were enlisted for the undertaking. The rabbis’ populist bent seeps through the midrash here and elsewhere as the work of the Tabernacle is discussed.

Read More
Nediv Lev

Nediv Lev

Mar 13, 2015 By Michael R. Boino | Commentary | Pekudei | Vayak-hel

We often think of love as something comfortable, something comforting. The truth is, it can be the exact opposite. True, unbounded love from another source can cause us to confront parts of ourselves with which we are uncomfortable: our vulnerability, our self image, our passive role as the recipient of care rather than as a caregiver.

Read More
Artisan and Architect

Artisan and Architect

Mar 4, 2016 By Barbara Mann | Commentary | Vayak-hel

Ben Uri looked at the work of his hands and was astonished at how the ark stood firm while he himself was like an empty vessel. His soul was sad and he broke out in tears.

—S. Y. Agnon, Agunot

Read More
Imagining Community, Then and Now

Imagining Community, Then and Now

Mar 4, 2016 By Arnold M. Eisen | Commentary | Vayak-hel

Anyone who has mounted a fund-raising campaign, or sought volunteers for an institution or organization, will immediately recognize the account of the Tabernacle’s construction in this week’s Torah portion as utopian in the extreme. “All the artisans . . . said to Moses, ‘The people are bringing more than is needed for the task entailed in the work that the Lord has commanded to be done.’ Moses thereupon had this proclamation made throughout the camp: ‘Let no man or woman make further efforts toward gifts for the sanctuary!’ Their efforts had been more than enough for all the tasks to be done” (Exod. 36:5–7).

Read More