And so we come to the end of the book of Exodus.
This week’s portion, Pekudei, deals with the actual construction of the priestly vestments and the Tabernacle. First, though, there is a detailed accounting of the gold, silver, and copper used. This includes the individual half-shekels collected in the portion we read last week for Shabbat Shekalim and the week before as well. Accounting can be dull but reassuring, when everything comes out as expected, anyway. Then the vestments and parts of the Tabernacle and its utensils are made. The people bring all of it to Moses (some assembly required). As ordered by the Lord, he erects the Tabernacle on the first day of the first month (Nissan), almost a year after leaving Egypt. We also learn how the priests will be ordained, but not just yet. Finally, we learn that a cloud covers the Tabernacle by day and it glows at night (Divine glory? Fire? Chemiluminescence?). Movement of the cloud is a signal for the camp to move on, [I enjoy contemplating clouds, though I try not to when I’m driving.]
As with last week’s portion, there is much repetition of the details we read earlier, in Tetsaveh, not only the vestments but every single item that will be placed and used in the Tabernacle. Rav Yehoshua ibn Shoav (cited in A Daily Dose of Torah, Kleinman Edition, Y. A. Weiss, ed., vol. 6, p. 146) explains that the repetition emphasizes both that everything was done as instructed and that every individual item has its own unique purpose.
More repetition: I’m reading a section of this portion tomorrow, so I became acutely aware of the repetition of a particular phrase, “as the Lord commanded Moses.” Common enough anyway, it appears around 20 times (I’ll count next year) in the portion’s 92 verses. This is like having a divine seal of approval for every single task. The Baal HaTurim (cited in ibid.) adds that this also emphasized that the Lord had indeed forgiven the people regarding the Golden Calf, and everything was proper.
Of course the vestments are the most striking part of the reading. I written before about clothes as a means of indicating identify and status (or the status you want, like a chemist wearing a three-piece suit to the lab). I rerun below a piece on clothing as personal history. But what probably matters most on a day to day basis is how what you’re wearing makes you feel. For instance, when I read about all the layers of the High Priest’s get up, I think he must have found it both awe-inspiring and awfully hot in that environment. I remember feeling, well, businesslike as a child wearing dresses to elementary school and a lot more comfy in corduroys at home. I loved dresses with full skirts that would swirl when I spun around. Getting dressed up was OK if there was a good reason. I had a reasonable number of hand-me-downs from my sisters, which I actually didn’t mind, because they gave me a sense of growing up. Comfort is much more important to me than fashion, as long as I don’t look totally out of it. But no way would I wear stilettos. A lot of my old clothes have become “retro,” but my daughter emptied my closet of those.
Where do homeless accountants live? In a tax shelter
How do you know your son is going to be a CPA? When you read him the story of Cinderella and you get to the part where the pumpkin turns into a golden carriage, he asks you “Daddy, is that ordinary income or a capital gain?”
Accountants’ Best Defense: We’re not boring people. We just get excited over boring things. –
My most memorable dress was – not my wedding dress, though that was sweet (and petite – a size 3 that had to be taken in), nor a particular red-and-white dress I wore on my first date with my future husband and later worn by my daughter, but my high school graduation dress. Students graduating from my school, the Philadelphia High School for Girls (still called that though they are legally required to allow boys to enroll) did not wear cap and gown. We wore our own white dresses and carried bouquets of red carnations. When mini dresses first came in, the seniors had to bring in their dresses ahead of time, put them on, and kneel before the vice principal. If the hem didn’t touch the floor, it was too short. By my year, they’d given up, and my dress was a lovely little white lace minidress. After graduation, I wore it on Yom Kippur a few times, white being traditional on that day, then put it away when I, uh, grew out of it. In the early ’90’s, we decorated it with pink crepe paper and sequins, and my daughter wore it as a full-length Queen Esther costume for Purim. When she was older (and taller), she too wore it for Yom Kippur. It fits neither of us now, and a bit of the lace has yellowed, but I still have it, and the memories it evokes.
Handy Ecclesiastical Dictionary (lightly edited selections) From 2005
Burnout When clergy start preaching from the telephone book. The result of extreme overwork or excessive stress. Hiding the telephone book is not a sufficient treatment.
Cassock Short for “clergy hassock”. A robe that makes the wearer look like a small, round, over-stuffed footrest.
Choir Gown Robes worn by all choir members, designed to look equally ill-fitting on everyone. Generally color-coordinated with previous sanctuary carpeting.
Vestments Small, white mints kept in the vest pockets of grandfathers in the church. A traditional bribe to keep children quiet during a sermon.
Quotes about Clothing
“There are women in my closet, hanging on the hangers. a different woman for each suit, each dress, each pair of shoes. I hoard clothes. My makeup spills from the bathroom drawers, and there are different women for different lipsticks.”
― Marya Hornbacher