Unless otherwise noted, "This week's Parsha" comprises articles taken from contributors to the Chabad.org website. We show the original author's name here, so that proper attribution is given. For the sake of brevity, footnotes cited in the original author's writings are omitted from this website. If you need to see the citations, please refer to the original articles on the Chabad.org website.
Granted gold has some practical applications: in dentistry, conducting electricity and other things we remember as vaguely vital. But that is not gold. That is not gold's worth. That is not why people have been gaga over it for as long as we can remember.
It's not even that it looks so nice. Bronze has its own look that in some settings surpasses gold -- but it has never caught attention like gold. Gold is simply a way of marking stature or status. A phenomenon that has no intrinsic, concrete worth. The story is told that in Stalin's Siberian gold mines the guards didn't check the forced laborers after a day in the mines; even if the prisoners stole, what could they do with gold in Siberia? Against the moldiest bread it held no value.
Once in Thirteen Years
"And these are the laws (Mishpatim) which you shall set before them" (Exodus 21:1)
With the expression "set before them" (rather than "teach them") G-d emphasized that Moses should not merely teach the Torah's laws to the people once, in cursory fashion. The great teacher was to be devoted to his pupils; he was to rehearse the laws again and again until the people became thoroughly familiar with them, as one sets a table before a person about to eat.
Even in this day and age, most women graciously accept the traditional "ladies first" rule, whether it's getting off a sinking ship or going through a ballroom doorway. Commonly perceived as a concession to the weaker gender by the stronger, the rule is actually founded upon a very different rationale, at least in the Jewish tradition.
When G-d instructed Moses to prepare the people of Israel to receive the Torah at Mount Sinai some 3,300 years ago, He said: "Speak to the house of Jacob, and tell the sons of Israel" (Exodus 19:3). The "house of Jacob," our sages explain, are the women; "the sons of Israel," the men. In other words, speak first with the ladies.