By the Light of the MoonFebruary 19, 2014 - 5:00 am
All who were willing, men and women alike, came and brought gold jewelry of all kinds: brooches, earrings, rings and ornaments. They all presented their gold as a wave offering to the LORD.—Exodus 35:22
The Torah portion for this week is Vayakhel, which means “assembled,” from Exodus 35:1—38:20, and the Haftorah is from 1 Kings 7:13–26.
Helen Keller once observed: “Faith is the strength by which a shattered world shall emerge into the light.” Faith gives us the power to persevere when all seems lost so we might find that nothing has been lost — and in turn, we will have found everything.
In this week’s Torah portion, we read about the gifts the people gave to building the Tabernacle. When the Torah first tells us about the contributions, we read: “All who were willing, men and women alike, came and brought gold jewelry of all kinds: brooches, earrings, rings and ornaments.” From this we learn that both men and women contributed. However, a look at the original Hebrew reveals a more nuanced story. The verse more literally reads: “The men came on the heels of the women.” The men followed the women who were quick to be first in line.
The Sages point out that the enthusiasm the women had for contributing to the Tabernacle stands in stark contrast to their refusal to give their jewelry for the sake of building the golden calf. According to Judaism, the women did not participate in the sin of the golden calf. They had faith that Moses would return from Mount Sinai, unlike the men who had given him up for dead.
The Sages teach because of the women’s refusal to give their jewelry for idolatry, along with their willingness to give their valuables away for God’s purposes, they received a special holiday. The Hebrew calendar is based on the lunar cycles, so every new moon marks a new month, and in the Jewish tradition, it is also a mini-holiday. However, it is specifically a women’s holiday – one in which they abstain from work and enjoy.
Why was the holiday of the New Moon given as a reward for the piety of the women?
In Judaism, the moon is a symbol of faith. At times the moon is full and bright. But at other points in the month, the moon is only a sliver in the sky and it appears that the moon is all but lost. This represents the times in our lives where things seem hopeless. We are like that sliver in the sky, feeling at times like we may never be full again. However, faith tells us not to give up hope; the moon will shine once more, and indeed it does. Because the women refused to give up on Moses and held on to their faith, they were given the holiday that celebrates faith – the holiday of the New Moon.
Friends, when all seems lost, remember the moon. No matter how dark things may seem, hold on to faith, and the light will shine once again.