Book of Nehemia.
It felt really good to read directly from the book, so good I actually cried. I have not been able to "learn Torah" (as we say here in this Torah World society in which I live) since divorcing my (alleged) "rabbi" ex-husband some 3 months ago, whose hypocrisy so triggered an allergic reaction on my part to anything resembling what we would call "learning" that I haven't been able to glance at a book in months.
Of course I've always had a semantic issue with what is called "learning" here. To me, something is not learned unless it can then be taught. When someone picks up a book and reads a few lines and then puts it away and calls that "learning," I call that "reading." But I digress!
I was struck with the great care and loving detail Nechemia Chapter 3 goes into in describing who exactly did what and where they did it in the rebuilding of the Walls of Jerusalem.
Somewhere around 50-ish (depeding on how you count) different individuals and groups are mentioned as taking part in the rebuilding of the Walls and their Gates. Out of all those people and groups, these stand out to me:
"Next to them the Tekoaites reinforced, but their dignitaries did not put their necks to the labor of their Lord." (Nehemiah 3:5) The Tekoaites were the only community mentioned whose leaders refused to participate in the labor itself, although individual men of Tekoa did work and were mentioned by name.
"Next to him, Shallum son of Hallohesh, the officer over half the district of Jerusalem, reinforced, he together with his daughters." (Nehemiah 3:12) This is the only mention of women participating in the building of the walls.
"After him, Baruch son of Zaccai enthusiastically reinforced a similar measure, from the corner up to the entrance of the house of Eliashib's house." (Nehemiah 3:20) This is the only mention of any person or group "enthusiastically" doing the work.
"After him , Hananiah son of Shelemiah and Hanun, the sixth son of Zalaph, reinforced a similar measure" (Nehemiah 3:30) This is the only mention of someone's birth order (the 6th son) and the names of both mother and father.
The wonderful thing about the Book of Nehemiah is that it took place so relatively recently (around 445BCE or the Hebrew year 3316). The people mentioned aren't archetypal soul-root icons such as Avraham, Yitzchak, Yaacov, etc., they're much more up close and real in terms of their politics and personalities.
From the above distinctions I'd draw the conclusion (extrapolations 'r' us!) that to successfully build the Walls of Jerusalem (both literally and metaphorically) we don't tolerate lazy leadership, we make opportunities to include women, we appreciate and encourage enthusiasm, and we are respectful of family ties.
Of course the Walls of Jerusalem are both within and without. Eternally there's no equivocation, we who have "pledged our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor" to building and settling this Land of Israel must indeed literally build the walls of Jerusalem.
But within ourselves there are those walls that need to be built as well, fortifications for honor and for beauty, for protection and for containment, to treasure and preserve as well as to have and to hold.
Within myself I call upon my inner leader to stop hiding and shying away from the hard work of being both a light and a vessel. I owe my Creator the chance to make full usage of how He made me.
Within myself I incorporate and honor my feminine soul in everything that I do. Integrity is being true to my self.
Within myself I vow to stop squelching enthusiasm with fear and doubt. Passion is what keeps my fires burning.
Within myself I remember I'm part of a larger entity, my family - the one I was born into, and the greater family of humankind as well. My words and actions affect others.
Back to the cave ..... and the books! :)