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The Music of Halacha: A Well Constructed Life: Part One



We are studying the laws of building on Shabbat. We began by comparing these laws to the first mention of “Boneh” – building – in the Torah, which appears in the formation of Eve. The first Binyan in the Torah is a life, and, as we will see, a well constructed life.

Rashi is bothered by the term “Vayiven” and compares a woman to a well- constructed storage house, which is wide on the bottom and narrow on top.

It seems strange to find a phrase that is often used in the vernacular in a demeaning way: “She is built!” What could Rashi possibly mean?

The Sages find a parallel between the word ‘Vayiven’ and “Binah” – perception: “A woman has greater perception than a man.” (Bereishit Rabbah 18:1)

The Ba’alei Tosafot quote Rabbi Moshe HaDarshan who speaks of the deep “Havanah” God used when forming the woman. They also speak of Eve as being granted the gift of “Nevuah” – prophecy.

The Talmud understands this strange phrase as meaning that God made Eve beautiful for Adam. “God braided her hair.” (Shabbat 95a) In fact, we derive from this reading that Boneh prohibits braiding hair on Shabbat! The prohibition is not Biblical, as the braids are not intended to be permanent (See II). This law also includes the prohibition of curling hair on Shabbat, although curling Pei’ot is subject to debate. (Yesodei Yeshurun)

II. Permanence
“I will build for him a faithful house.” (Samuel I 2:35) “I shall build a dynasty for you.” (Samuel II 7:27) The House of Kehuna and the House of David are both described as being ‘built’ and lasting forever.

It is clear that when the Torah describes God as ‘building’ Eve, it signifies the permanent and eternal role of women, something that the Torah does not associate with men.

We derive the principle that the Biblical prohibition of Boneh on Shabbat must be something that is intended to be, or can potentially be, permanent.

This helps us to understand Boneh’s  association with Binah – Perception – and Nevuah – Prophecy. Both are essential qualities for a permanent structure, or life.

III. Architecture
“He took one of his sides – ‘Mitzalotav’ – and He filled flesh in its place.” The root of ‘Mitzalotav’ is ‘Tzelah’ a term usually found in descriptions of architecture: “Against the wall of the Temple he built an annex – ‘Yatzia’ – all around, built into the walls of the Temple all around the Sanctuary, and the Inner Sanctum, and he made side-chambers – ‘Tzila’ot’ –  all around.” (Kings I 6:5. See too verse 15, and Ezekiel 41:5)

The first Binyan was well planned, and each detail was thought out so that the result would be permanent.

IV. Shelter
The Biblical prohibition of Boneh does not include assembling a chair or bicycle, or even a scale model boat or airplane since only the principle of ‘assembly” is present. There is no shelter.

We wondered where we find the concept of shelter in the formation of Eve. Perhaps that is why Rashi compares a woman to a storage house.

V. The Music of Halacha
We attempt to understand the practical lessons of all the Halachot we discuss. It seems clear that the first lessons of Boneh address constructing our lives, which is definitely the most creative work that occupies us.

We have seen that a well-constructed life must be well planned – Havanah, architecturally sound – Tzelah, beautiful – braided hair, and forward looking- Nevuah.

We must be able to construct our lives so they can shelter us and we must be able to take numerous things and assemble them into a new whole.

To Be Continued…

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