From the women in the era of the Golden Calf to Rashi’s father to today – we must make every effort to use all our resources and possessions in the service of God.
By Rabbi Ari Enkin, Rabbinic Director, United with Israel
This week we have a double Torah portion! On Shabbat we will be reading the portion of Vayakhel as well as the portion of Pekudei, which concludes the book of Exodus. Interestingly, both Vayakhel and Pekudei deal with the construction and finishing touches of the Mishkan, also known as “The Tabernacle,” which was the portable synagogue that the Jewish people took with them throughout their travels in the desert.
Women feature prominently in the construction of the Mishkan. The reason for this is related to the Golden Calf, which was the central episode in last week’s Torah portion. When those rebelling against the authority of God and Moses wanted to build a Golden Calf, they needed one major ingredient – gold! Times haven’t changed, and the men knew that in order to get some quality gold they would have to go to the women. However the women would have none of this. They refused to give over their jewelry or to allow any of their gold possessions to be used in the service of idol worship. Sadly, the men went ahead and took away their jewelry by force. As a reward for their conduct and loyalty the women were rewarded with being the first one’s to have the opportunity to donate their gold and jewelry for the construction for the Mishkan – the House of God.
The story of the eternally celebrated Torah commentator-par-excellence, Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki, better known as “Rashi”, is also a story of not allowing our possessions to be used for the wrong things. Rashi’s father, Rabbi Yitzchak, owned a beautiful gem that won him widespread fame. When word got to the Sultan about this precious gem, he sent messengers to Rabbi Yitzchak telling them that they must purchase the gem from him regardless of the price.
When the messengers arrived and offered Rabbi Yitzchak an enormous sum of money for the gem, he was overwhelmed. The amount of money was just tremendous. He began to daydream about all the good he could do with such an amount of money. When he was just about ready to agree to the offer, he asked the messengers a simple question. “What does his Excellency the Sultan want to do with this gem?” he asked. The messengers replied that the Sultan wanted to use the gem as part of his idolatrous religion and worship. It goes without saying, that Rabbi Yitzchak was aghast and would not sell the gem for any amount if it was to be used for this purpose – and he told them so! This was a near identical situation to the women and the Golden Calf.
To put it lightly, the Sultan’s messengers were not happy with his response, and as the story goes, they roughed him up. Still Rabbi Yitzchak wouldn’t budge. After some more roughing up – and Rabbi Yitzchak not budging- the messengers became so impressed with his devotion and loyalty to the Torah that they finally left him alone. According to tradition, Rabbi Yitzchak then heard a Divine voice that told him that since he sacrificed so much wealth for his commitment to the Torah, he would one day have a son whose teachings will be incomprehensibly valuable to the Jewish people for all eternity.
The message is clear. From the women in the era of the Golden Calf to Rashi’s father to today – we must make every effort to use all our resources and possessions in the service of God.
Shabbat Shalom from Israel!
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