Skilled Craftsmen

By Henry Bean

Published March 10, 2006, issue of March 10, 2006.
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Urim and Thummim. The ineffable name of God was inscribed on some unknown material and placed in the fold of the breastplate. — Soncino Chumash

—So what we’re making is the breastplate, the ephod….

—What’s an ephod?

—Like the linen apron you hang the breastplate over…?

—Oh, right.

—… the robe, tunic, mitre and a girdle.

—Can you do the mitre?

—Why me?

—I don’t like headgear. Anyway, the breastplate’s obviously a lot of work, so what if I do it and the ephod, and you take the rest?

—Okay, but remember, it’s supposed to be “a breastplate of judgment….”

—Yeah, what’s that mean? Is that extra, or is that just…?

—Just follow the instructions, it’ll be fine. Here….

—What’s that? That’s not the actual….

—No, no, someone copied this for us. Without the… the Name.

—Unh huh…. When it says “doubled over….”

—Just fold it over.

—Linen? It’s going to bunch up, it won’t look right. Why don’t I use a good quality cotton in a loose weave….

—It says linen. Right here, see…?

—Yeah, I see what it says, but —

—So it’s not up for discussion.

—Fine, but when it bunches up, don’t complain to me.

—Noted.

* * *

—How do you like this?

—What is it?

—A wax model for the plaited gold chain.

—It’s kind of thick.

—Too thick?

—I don’t know.

—I did this one, too: Thinner, but it doesn’t look right against the gold settings.

—I see what you mean.

—The instructions say pure. But actually, pure’s too soft, it won’t drape right, and I was thinking if I mixed it with a little….

—How many times do I have to tell you…?

—Just do what it says, I know, but a) I could improve on a lot of this….

You could improve on it? You know who wrote it?

—I don’t care who they say wrote it. If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work.

—Watch yourself.

—And b) for all the detail, there’s a ton it leaves out.

—Like?

—Like how thick the chain’s supposed to be.

—If the instructions don’t specify, it’s up to us. We’re the skilled craftsmen.

—Right. And, frankly, if I alloyed the gold a little…

—But where it’s specific, you’ve got to follow.

—Fine, it’ll be worse, but that’s how you want it.

—That’s right.

—What about the thickness? Too thick?

—I guess it’s okay.

—That’s what I think.

* * *

—Okay, so the chains go into the rings on the breastplate, then up here to the shoulders of the ephod.

—I love what you did with the ephod. The stitching’s great.

—It didn’t specify a stitch, so I just used one of my own. I hope that’s okay.

—Don’t be a smart aleck. The thread’s too dark. You can’t really see that it’s blue.

—It doesn’t say you have to see that it’s blue, it just has to be blue. Anyway, it’s all we’ve got.

—You don’t have a brighter thread?

—Not in blue.

—Then leave it.

—It looks good though? Darkness of blue aside.

—Actually it looks great. The linen didn’t even bunch up.

—’Cause I sewed rocks in the folds, and the weight of them holds it down.

—Rocks? What rocks?

—Well, it’s supposed to be the Urim and the Thummim, but —

—What makes you think they’re rocks?

—I don’t think they’re rocks. I have no idea what they are. What are they?

—Search me.

—So I used rocks — as placeholders. But is this something we have to come up with ourselves, or are the Levites handling it?

—The Levites…. Find something? Make something? Please…. It’s up to us.

—Look, I work with wood, metal, fabric, stone, that’s it. No Urim and Thummim, breastplate of judgment, predicting the future….

—Wait, wait: Listen to the instructions…. “And you will speak to all that are wise hearted, whom I have filled with the spirit of wisdom, that they may make Aaron’s garments to sanctify him.”

—Now we have to be wise hearted?

—We don’t have to be. We already are.

—Really? I feel pretty much like usual.

—But you’re filled with wisdom. Therefore what you do is wise.

—Therefore?

—Look, you doubled the linen like it said. You worried it would bunch, but you put rocks in so it lay flat. You were wise.

—That’s just ’cause I found rocks that fit. Not Urim and Thummim, whatever they are. They probably won’t fit.

—They’ll fit perfectly. You think it’s going to tell us to do it a certain way, then come up with rocks — or whatever — that don’t fit?

—You mean somebody’s going to stumble across things that fit perfectly?

—Somebody already has.

—Who?

—You.

—Those are just rocks.

—So maybe Urim and Thummim are just —

—They cast a judgment, man. They have to have the name of God written on them.

—The ineffable name.

—What’s that mean?

—You can’t write it. Say it. Or see it.

—So any rocks could have it on them.

—Exactly. Maybe all rocks.

—Ha, ha, ha. Do they all cast judgments?

—Only if you sew them up inside the ephod.

—Which you can’t do unless they fit.

—Exactly.

—And make the linen lie flat.

—In the best of all possible worlds.

—What if they don’t render judgments?

—Let the Levites worry about that.

* * *

—Aaron looks great in it, huh?

—He looks great. Gives him some dignity.

—You did a terrific job on the fit.

—I cut to his measurements, what do you expect?

—Why don’t you just say thank you.

—Thank you. How do you like the chains?

—Good.

—Not too thick?

—No, they actually drape nicer than I expected.

—I agree. Know why?

—’Cause you mixed something with the gold.

—A little copper.

—The instructions said pure gold.

—They didn’t say how pure. Pure enough for the instructions? Or pure enough to hang right and last a couple years without the links getting all shmushed?

—You’re elaborating on the instructions. That’s a slippery slope.

—Everything’s slippery. Even the flat places. Look, if He filled me with wisdom, He’s gotta live with how I use it.

—Or bring down His wrath.

—We’re craftsman. We’re used to it.

Henry Bean’s new film, “Noise,” will shoot this spring in New York.






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