According to the Torah all human beings are created individually, with unique talents and strengths to do their part to develop the world around them. When a person latches onto a unique talent they have been endowed with and actualizes it, the result is truly satisfying for the accomplisher as well as for those who benefit from it. Parshat Vayakel demonstrates this very notion when describing the construction of the mishkan.
In Exodus 35:10 the Torah states:
וְכׇל־חֲכַם־לֵ֖ב בָּכֶ֑ם יָבֹ֣אוּ וְיַעֲשׂ֔וּ אֵ֛ת כׇּל־אֲשֶׁ֥ר צִוָּ֖ה יְוָֽה׃
And let all among you who are uniquely skilled, come and make all that G-d has commanded.
G-d invites anyone that is endowed with a talent or skill to step forward and do their thing to assist in the construction of the tabernacle.
A few verses later we read of a sensational demonstration of a unique talent that I personally have never seen or heard of anywhere else:
וְכׇ֨ל־הַנָּשִׁ֔ים אֲשֶׁ֨ר נָשָׂ֥א לִבָּ֛ן אֹתָ֖נָה בְּחׇכְמָ֑ה טָו֖וּ אֶת־הָעִזִּֽים׃
And all the women who excelled in that skill spun the goats’ hair.
The great commentator, Rashi quotes the Babylonian Talmud- Shabbat 74 to explain the uniqueness of this goat hair spinning:
טוו את העזים. הִיא הָיְתָה אָמָּנוּת יְתֵרָה, שֶׁמֵּעַל גַּבֵּי הָעִזִּים טוֹוִין אוֹתָם
This required extraordinary skill, for they spun it (the goats’ hair) from off the backs of the goats (whilst it was still on the living animals)
Why on earth did the women spin the hair right off the backs of the goats? What benefit was there in doing it this way?
- Rabbi David Pardo of 18th century Italy writes that this produced a cleaner yarn.
- Rabbi Ovadia ben Jacob Sforno, an Italian rabbi, biblical commentator, philosopher, and physician (1475- 1550) explains that the shine of the goat hair was brighter because it came right off their backs.
I would like to suggest a different but complementary approach: this was a unique talent that some of the women developed; and they sincerely wanted to share it with G-d and utilize it for the construction of the mishkan.
Our tradition teaches us that in addition to the mishkan, or tabernacle, constructed in the desert 3,300 years ago, we are all advised to construct a spiritual tabernacle in our hearts. This is to serve as a place for our spirits to grow and be nourished with Torah and service to G-d. Let’s take a deep look into ourselves and see what unique strengths and talents we have to invoke for our tabernacle and infuse them therein.
Rabbi Ephraim Epstein
Community Scholar in Residence