Goats-Busters: Vayakhel 2022

by Adam J. Rosenbaum

Pre-Game Chatter: Do you think you’re suited for certain talents and not others? What do you think would happen if you were to devote yourself sincerely to learning a skill you’ve never come close to attempting?

Our Torah portion highlights the particular accomplishments of the ancient Israelites’ most gifted spinners:

The Pitch: “And all the skilled women spun with their own hands, and brought what they had spun, in blue, purple, and crimson yarns, and in fine linen. And all the women who excelled in that skill spun the goats’ hair.” – Exodus 35:25-26

Swing #1: “These women are called ‘skilled,’ from a Hebrew root that usually indicates ‘wisdom,’ but that also, as here, can denote the learned technical abilities of artisans.” – Women in Scripture, Carol Meyers, ed.

Swing #2: “Contrary to today’s popular conceptions, Israelite women did have their own possessions. Everything was not the property of their husbands. And they were recognized as having wills of their own! They could freely take from their possessions to make an offering to God. … In the hands of the women who excelled in particular handicrafts, raw materials were transformed into holy objects.” – Rabbi Nancy H. Wiener in The Women’s Torah Commentary: New Insights From Women Rabbis on the 54 Weekly Torah Portions, Rabbi Elyse Goldstein, ed.

Swing #3: “In the gendered division of household labor that characterizes traditional cultures, spinning, weaving, and other aspects of textile production are women’s crafts in almost 90% of peoples around the world. … Scholars have long acknowledged female dominance of textile production in ancient Israel as well as other parts of the ancient Near East. Yet they have not taken advantage of that information to assess its implications for women’s lives and household dynamics.” – Carol Meyers, Exodus

Late-Inning Questions: This passage offers a rare (for the Torah) glimpse at the skills, work, and accomplishments of ancient Israelite women. Why is information like this so rarely offered to the biblical reader? To what extent does overdue recognition enable us to appreciate others, and to what extent does it only highlight prior slights? Is overdue recognition better than no recognition at all?

On-Deck at TBT: We’re grateful to have resumed in-person services. Please note that all attendees must wear a high-filtration mask (e.g., KF94, KN95, N95) covering their nose and mouth at all times. We look forward to seeing you in-person while maintaining safe practices.

The Big Inning at the End: Just waiting for a deal. Owners, players … you know what to do.

Shabbat Shalom!