The Extraordinary Wisdom of the Women Who Spun the Goats for the Mishkan

In Parshat Vayakhel, Shmot 35:26 we read: “And all of the women whose hearts inspired them with wisdom spun the goats.”


Why does it say “spun the goats” and not “spun the goat’s hair”?


According to Rashi who quotes the Talmud, Shabbat 74b, this was a craft of special skill for they spun the goat’s hair while it was still on the animals’ backs.


The Talmud, Shabbat 99a explains the special expertise for spinning the goat hair: It was taught in a Braita in the name of Rabbi Nechemia: The hair was washed on the goats and spun while still on the goats.


Sforno points out that the goat hair would be washed and spun into thread before being shorn from the goats. This was done so that the final product should be especially lustrous, since goat hair tends to diminish in quality as soon as it is removed from its source of growth.


The upper curtains of the Mishkan were of goat hair construction and it took greater expertise to make the upper curtains than to make the lower ones which were made of blue wool, purple wool, scarlet wool and linen.


For the making of the lower curtains it says in Shmot 35:25, “Every wise hearted woman spun with her hands” while for the making of the upper curtains it says 35:26, “All the women whose hearts inspired them with wisdom spun the goats.”


The Talmud, Shabbat 74b talks about forms of labor that are forbidden on Shabbat. Rabbah bar Chanah said in the name of Rabbi Yochanan: One who spins wool that is still on the back of an animal on Shabbat is obligated to bring three chatat (sin) offerings for shearing, disentangling and spinning which are all forbidden on Shabbat. Rav Kahana disagrees and says that this is not the usual manner of shearing, disentangling or spinning and therefore he should not have to bring any chatat offerings. The Gemara then brings the Braita from Rabbi Nechemia that says that for the Mishkan the women washed the hairs of the goats and spun them while on the goats. Does this prove that “spinning the goats” is a normal manner of spinning? The Gemara answers that an act performed with the extraordinary wisdom of those who constructed the Mishkan is different than the acts of ordinary people.


We see from here that “spinning the goats” was a task that was only done for the Mishkan to ensure that the upper curtains would be of the finest quality. And who was entrusted to perform this difficult task? The extraordinary women whose hearts inspired them with wisdom!