(Torah Portion Vayakeil) Jewish Women!
Not one woman donated anything to create the golden calf, nor did any woman worship the idol.
In fact, women were outstandingly faithful in their commitment, devotion and dedication to G-d. It is therefore understandable that women played a prominent role in contributing toward the construction of G-d’s Temple in the desert, and for volunteering their unique talents for the construction of the ornate and intricately woven coverings and curtains of the Temple.
The women were especially eager to restore G-d’s presence to the Jewish camp after He distanced Himself because of the sin of the golden calf. One example of this is that when the women came to contribute their jewelry for the Temple, the Torah relates that they came while they were still adorned with their jewelry. Only then did they remove their jewelry and contribute it to the Temple.
Rabbi Moshe Feinstein o.b.m. points out a tremendous lesson we can learn from these women. The Mitzvah of building a Sanctuary was so dear to them, that they did not merely contribute jewelry they had no use for, or had gone out of style for the sake of G-d’s Temple, rather, they joyfully contributed their most cherished pieces, the ones which they still enjoyed wearing and were precious to them.
Another example is that the women presented to Moshe their copper mirrors to make the Kiyor – wash basin of the holy Mishkan. These mirrors had been used to adorn themselves and to make themselves attractive to their husbands during their slavery in Egypt.
Moshe felt it inappropriate to use mirrors that had been previously used for vanity to make this holy vessel.
However, G-d told Moshe that He specifically wanted the women’s mirrors used for the Kiyor, since they were used by the righteous and devout women in Egypt to beautify themselves for their overworked and exhausted husbands, enabling them to bear children despite the cruel conditions they were in. G-d considered the copper mirrors most worthy because they stood as a reminder of the women’s belief, yearning and hope of G-d’s redemption. It is no surprise that our sages tell us that it was in the merit of the righteous women that we were redeemed from Egypt.
I recently read a phenomenal story concerning an observant Jewish philanthropist, Mr. Stephen Klein o.b.m.
Mr. Klein would take out full page ads in the New York Times before the holidays and teach the masses of Jews about their noble heritage and the festivals that celebrated this heritage.
In 1974, someone approached Mr. Klein and said, “Imagine if the New York Times listed the weekly Shabbat candle lighting time. The awareness and pride in Judaism that would occur as a result of this endeavor would be incredible.”
Mr. Klein was sold on the idea. It cost him almost $2000 a week, a considerable amount of money 35 years ago.
For many years, each Friday, Jews around the world would see on the bottom of page 1. “Jewish women: Shabbat candle lighting time is:_____.” (I personally recall looking for it.)
In June of 1999, the notices stopped appearing in the paper. It never appeared again – except for once.
On January 1, 2000, the NY Times ran a millennium edition. It was a special edition that featured three full pages. One had the news of January 1, 1900; the second was the actual news of January 1, 2000. The third page was fictional. It projected the future news of January 1, 2100. In addition to the many articles about the year 2100 on the front page was the Shabbat candle lighting time for New York on January 1, 2100 (It’s a Friday). No one paid for this ad. It was placed there gratis by the N.Y. Times.
When the production manager of the N.Y. Times, an Irish Catholic, was asked about the ad, he answered, “We have no idea what will happen in the year 2100. It is impossible to predict the future. Of one thing you can be certain, in the year 2100, Jewish women will be lighting Shabbat candles!
The awesome power and commitment of Jewish women carries on!
Wishing you a most restful, uplifting, peaceful
and inspirational Shabbos!
Rabbi Dovid Saks