Halakhah הֲלָכָה

Gold is the first item on the parashah’s list of supplies for the mishkan. It was used for many parts of the mishkan, including the אֲרוֹן (aron, ark), the מְנוֹרָה (menorah), and the mishkan’s walls. Our parashah might make it sound like using gold to perform mitzvot is always a wonderful thing.
But, in fact, it’s complicated!
  • Performing mitzvot with gold: We generally try to make mitzvot as beautiful as possible, and this idea is called הִדּוּר מִצְוָה (hiddur mitzvah). But sometimes using gold can be a problem! For example, if tefillin boxes are covered in gold, that makes them not kosher (Mishnah Megillah 4:8). Similarly, if there is gold on a shofar at the place where it is blown, then that shofar is also not considered kosher (Rosh Hashanah 27a).
  • Gold on Yom Kippur: The Talmud (Rosh Hashanah 26a) explains that the כֹּהֵן גָּדוֹל (kohen gadol, high priest in the Temple) did not wear gold clothing on Yom Kippur, because gold might remind God of חֵטְא הָעֵגֶל (heit ha-eigel, the sin of the golden calf). For this reason, some people have the custom not to wear special gold jewelry on Yom Kippur (Mateh Efraim, Yom Kippur 610:11).
  • Jewelry on Shabbat: The Talmud says not to wear expensive jewelry on Shabbat because you may want to take it off to show a friend (Shabbat 59b). Nowadays, people don’t really take off their jewelry, and so it is okay to wear it on Shabbat, even in places without an eruv (Peninei Halakhah, Shabbat 21:14). It’s also permitted to wear a gold watch on Shabbat (Shemirat Shabbat Ke-hilkhatah 18:27).