Firm Like Bronze

Yael Eckstein  |  March 13, 2024

Close up image of a tabernacle placed in front of mountains
(Photo: Jack Hazut)

From what you have, take an offering for the LORD. Everyone who is willing is to bring to the LORD an offering of gold, silver and bronze… — Exodus 35:5

Each week in synagogue, Jews read through the Torah from Genesis to Deuteronomy. This week’s Torah portion is Vayakhel, which means “assembled,” from Exodus 35:1—38:20.

I want to talk to you about being stubborn. We usually think of stubbornness as a negative character trait. But just like the Book of Ecclesiastes teaches us that “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity…” (3:1), every trait can be used for the good, for God’s purposes. There’s a story about stubbornness that I love.

In the first half of the 20th century, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, a famous and respected rabbi, was fighting for religious freedom in communist Russia. One morning as he prayed in synagogue, three men rushed in and arrested the rabbi for his actions—for the crime of praying to God. But the rabbi was stubbornly defiant. He declared that he wouldn’t give up his religious activities.

One of the agents pointed a gun at the rabbi’s head and said, “This little toy has made many a man change his mind!” Without thinking twice, the rabbi replied, “That little toy can only intimidate men with many gods and one world. But I have only one God and two worlds, so I am not impressed by your little toy.” The soldiers were so taken aback by the rabbi’s bold response that they left without saying another word.

Firm Like Bronze

In this week’s Torah portion, we read about all of the materials that the children of Israel donated for the Tabernacle. Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, the leader of German Jewry in the 19th century, explained that each of the materials that God requested symbolizes a way that we serve God.

The first three materials listed are gold, silver, and bronze. While gold and silver obviously symbolize wealth and beauty, bronze is different. Rabbi Hirsch explained that in the Bible, bronze is a symbol of stubborn, unyielding strength, sometimes in a bad way.

For example, when Moses warned the Jewish people that God would hold back rain from the land if they sinned, he used the imagery of bronze: “The sky over your head will be bronze, the ground beneath you iron” (Deuteronomy 28:23).

In a life of faith, we may be called upon to stand firm in the face of challenges to our values. That is when we must stand firm and unyielding like bronze—like Rabbi Schneersohn. By including bronze as one of the materials used to build the Tabernacle, the Bible teaches us that we must—and can—serve God, even with our stubbornness.I

Your Turn:

Pray to God today for the strength to stand in the face of challenges to your faith and biblical values.