Thursday, June 12, 2014

Exodus: Chapter 35

To cease from creating
And to create

A generative power 
men and women
those who are called
those who are taught

[For full chapter, click here
We continue the process of restitution and recreation. From reiterating the covenant, we come back to the calling of Bezalel that introduced the story of the Golden Calf. Once again, the return is also a transformation. Structurally, there is a chiastic inversion. Whereas the initial presentation began with the calling of the divinely inspired Bezelel, and closed with the Sabbath that calls upon everybody, here, we begin with the Sabbath, and  move on to the calling of Bezalel. This change is indicative.
Here, the creation of the Dwelling begins from the bottom up. It is charged with the same populist, frenetic energy that drove the creation of the Calf. “And they came, every one whose heart stirred him up, and every one whose spirit was generous… And they came, the men on the women, as many as were willing-hearted, and brought nose-rings, and ear-rings, and signet-rings, and girdles, all jewels of gold every man that brought an offering of gold.” The “golden earrings that Aaron demanded for the creation of the Calf, becomes a stream of jewelry (now,willingly brought by everybody, rather than forcefully “taken from your wives and children”]. The strange, sexually charged phrase “and the men came on the women” (va-yavou ha-anashim al ha-nashim—which can also mean “and the men slept with the women”) hints that we are dealing with the same ecstatic, erotic drives of zenut (idolatry/ fornication) and letzahek (laughter/ sex) that drove the dancing around the Calf. This is a creativity related to earthy reproduction. 
The Dwelling is now the creation of the people, with the leadership coming last. This change is encapsulated in the sudden focus on the involvement of previously-unmentioned women—“all the women who were wise-hearted, spun with their hands… all the women whose heart moved them in wisdom, spun.” The usually dismissed "women's arts" of spinning and weaving are highlighted and acknowledged. Creativity is no longer the realm of the lone divine artist. Now, Bezalel and Ohaliav have been inspired to “teach”: creativity moves outwards, a collaborative folk-art.]

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