Pekudei (Ex. 38:21 – 40:38), Shabbat Shekalim (Ex. 30:11-16)

What do Downton Abbey, the Oscars, and Parashat Pekudei have in common?

I asked a few teens that question last Sunday and assured them that their blank faces were appropriate responses.  The answer: an intense focus on clothing and accessories.

I will probably see the exhibition of Downton Abbey costumes sometime during it 10-month run at Winterthur.  One can also buy Downton-y tea gloves, dinner gloves, and scarves at , as well as jewelry at .  I understand there will be a line of clothing eventually.  On the show, the clothes clearly identify who is of what class and even what time of day it is.  As for the Oscars Sunday night, as well as other glitzy award shows, the lengths to which participants go to project an image of physical perfection and beauty is to be expected in an industry built on image making.  Some outfits are memorably breathtaking, others incredibly unattractive (those I block out).  I loved Angelina Jolie’s gorgeous “one shoulder white satin gown highlighted with electric red by the neckline.”  ( )  An outfit can also provide a career boost, like the red dress that pushed then-little-known actress Catherine Zeta-Jones permanently into the spotlight. And you can buy knock-offs on line; that Angelina Jolie gown is available at (on sale now for $179).

What actors wear when they perform, either in a specific role or as “themselves” on TV, is significant beyond the obvious desire to look like, say, a 1920’s kitchen maid. Wallace Shawn wrote (thanks again, Stanley): “Contrary to the popular misconception, the actor is not necessarily a specialist in imitating or portraying what he knows about other people. On the contrary, the actor may simply be a person who’s more willing than others to reveal some truths about himself. Interestingly, the actress who, in her own persona, may be gentle, shy, and socially awkward, someone whose hand trembles when pouring a cup of tea for a visiting friend, can convincingly portray an elegant, cruel aristocrat tossing off malicious epigrams in an eighteenth-century chocolate house.

“On stage, her hand doesn’t shake when she pours the cup of chocolate, nor does she hesitate when passing along the vilest gossip about her closest friends. The actress’s next-door neighbors, who may not have had the chance to see her perform, might say that the person they know could never have been, under any circumstances, either elegant or cruel. But she knows the truth that in fact she could have been either or both, and when she plays her part, she’s simply showing the audience what she might have been, if she’d in fact been an aristocrat in a chocolate house in the eighteenth century.

“We are not what we seem. We are more than what we seem.”

In this week’s Torah portion (you knew I’d get to it eventually!), the priestly vestments are made according to the instructions we read three weeks ago.  These vestments are intended not only to identify a priest or High Priest, to provide an appropriate image.  From Eden onward, clothing is presented as the essence of humanity, versus bestial nakedness.  The garments not only adorn the priests but sanctify them; in fact, the sages deduced that a priest who officiates “out of uniform” is liable for the death penalty.  Just as donning special apparel is a metaphor for acquiring certain inner moral qualities, so too can inner character be recognized by outward actions (Akedat Yitzhak, cited in N. Leibowitz, New Studies in Shemot, p. 516)

The Torah portion opens with a statement concerning the strict accounting of all the precious materials to be used for the Tabernacle, including the half-shekels we read about two weeks ago, collected as a head tax for a census. This Sabbath happens to be Shabbat Shekalim, the first of four special Sabbaths leading up to Passover.  We read from a second scroll those verses about the half-shekel collection, Ex. 30:11-16.  The haftarah, II Kings 12:1 – 12:17 for Ashkenazim (Sephardim start at 11:17, no I don’t know why), similarly concerns a system of money collection for upkeep of the Temple instituted by Jehoash.

This is the last portion in the book of Exodus.  Next week, on to Leviticus!

Shabbat shalom,

The 8 best ‘Downton Abbey’ spoofs

By Dave Nemetz February 15, 2013 10:23 AM

We love “Downton Abbey” as much as the Dowager Countess loves feathery hats. But we also recognize that its stuffy setting and genteel dialogue make it an easy target for parody. And pop culture has obliged by giving us a number of spot-on spoofs of the oh-so-addictive Edwardian soap opera.

So pour yourself a cup of tea and get ready for this weekend’s “Downton” season finale by checking out eight hilarious parodies of the show. Some of these might even make the Dowager crack a smile! (Or… maybe not.)

(These are the videos that are still up at the site. I’ve only seen “Breaking Abbey” so far. IGP)

“Breaking Abbey” (“The Colbert Report”)

“Downton Abbey Dogs” (Dogster)

“Downton Abbey” on Spike TV (“Saturday Night Live”)

“Downton Sixbey” (“Late Night With Jimmy Fallon”)

“The Fresh Prince of Downton Abbey” (CollegeHumor)

“Uptown Downstairs Abbey” (The BBC)


Top Ten Kohain Gadol Pet Peeves 
by The Bangitout Staff  Posted: 07-23-2006(Viewed 539 times)

10. Still no temple parking spot reserved for Kohain Gadol (High Priest)
9. Two Words: “Ephod Rash”
8. No cell phone reception in desert Tabernacle
7. Constantly getting confused for KKK Grand Dragon
6. Had to take blood bath in Initial Public “Offering”
5. Small bells on garment ruin daily “Hide N’ Go Seek” Altar Game
4. Urim V’tumim won’t pick lotto numbers
3. Wearing enough purple to be in a Prince Video
2. Mikvah prune hands
1. Ain’t no “Dress Down Fridays” in the Kodosh Kedoshim (Holy of Holies)


Vicars defrocked! Fears of jeans and hoodies in pulpit as Synod votes to decide if clergy’s robes are surplice to requirements

  • Traditional robes could be voted out in bid to make services more modern
  • Vicars could wear whatever they deem appropriate under new rules
  • Conservatives warn changes would dilute the identity of the Church
  • Others welcome news describing ‘power dressing’ as a barrier


PUBLISHED: 18:15 EST, 21 December 2013 | UPDATED: 06:04 EST, 24 December 2013

Never mind the cassocks – vicars could soon be conducting services in shell-suits, shorts or even football shirts under radical plans to overturn centuries of Church tradition.

Rules requiring the clergy to don traditional vestments are set to be swept aside as part of a ‘makeover’ designed to make services more relevant to modern congregations.

If the Church of England Synod approves the reforms, vicars could wear whatever they deem appropriate for all their services – including weddings, baptisms and funerals.

Although most are likely to favour smart jackets, some have indicated they would adopt a ‘dress-down Sunday’ approach.

The proposals, drawn up by a London vicar, the Rev Christopher Hobbs, have already garnered the support of about a quarter of the Synod, who will debate the issue in February.

But conservatives warn that changes would dilute the identity and authority of the Church.

The Rev Andrew Atherstone, a senior theologian, welcomed the move, saying that garments such as cassocks and surplices were a relic from a ‘bygone age’ and a form of ‘power dressing’ that was a barrier to getting the Church’s message across.

And the Rev Peter Owen-Jones, a TV clergyman and self-confessed ‘old, long-haired hippy’, said he would be prepared to wear his normal garb of jeans, shirt, waistcoat, beads and battered hat for baptisms and weddings if that’s what his parishioners in East Sussex wanted.

He added: ‘We must be sensitive to the fact that the majority of people still enjoy the fact that priests dress up in this Roman clothing, which is what it is.’

He said clergy had ‘very poor dress sense’ and the idea of them turning up in ‘smart casual’ clothes sent a shiver down his spine.

Even leading liberal and Thought For The Day contributor the Rev Giles Fraser, whose normal attire is jeans and a T-shirt, said: ‘It’s outrageous. Is nothing sacred?

‘Vestments are a very ancient part of the Church’s tradition and they bring dignity to worship.

‘What we have here is an attempt to make worship all terribly chummy and I would choose dignity over chumminess every time.’

Image consultant Veronique Henderson, of Colour Me Beautiful, said the Church should keep a uniform but it ought to be modernised, suggesting scarves decorated with crosses.


Accounting Jokes

Q: What is a Budget?
A: An orderly system for living beyond your means.

What’s the definition of a good tax accountant?
Someone who has a loophole named after him.

Accountants aren’t boring people, we just get excited over boring things.


Collectors Bid for Million-Dollar Shekel
Silver Coin from First Revolt Grabs Spotlight at Auction (excerpt)

By Lisa Amand

Published March 27, 2012, issue of March 30, 2012.

It was a single silver shekel that stole the spotlight at a recent New York coin auction. Its gavel price: $1.1 million.

Back in the day, the shekel might have represented four days of a soldier’s pay. But that was 66 C.E., during a bloody and doomed fight to the death by Jewish nationalists against their Roman overlords. On March 9, under the chandeliers and oil portraits of the Fletcher-Sinclair House, on Manhattan’s tony Upper East Side, this piece was just one of a trove of Roman era Judean coins eyed by a mix of numismatists, some in suits with deep pockets and others in jeans, at one of the largest auctions of coins from that era ever held.  This was an auction at which sela’im and zuzim­ — the equivalent of pocket change in Roman times — made a name for themselves. The event, sponsored by Heritage Auctions, a major house for ancient collectibles, also featured 260 silver-and-bronze pieces from the Bar Kokhba Revolt, a later, separate anti-Roman rebellion that broke out in 132 C.E.

As for the shekel that went for $1.1 million, it was struck in Jerusalem during the First Revolt, which ended with the Romans’ destruction of the SecondTemple, in 70 C.E. One side shows a ceremonial chalice; the other displays three pomegranate buds. The legend, which reads “Shekel of Israel” and “Year 1” on one side and “Holy Jerusalem” on the other, has provoked controversy since the auction, because of its mute testimony to the existence of Jewish nationalism dating back to Roman times. Only two prototype “Year 1” shekels are known to exist, and the other one is in Jerusalem’s IsraelMuseum.

Contact Lisa Amand at

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