Ours is a parsha of construction. First we
account for the Mishkan materials [35:5-9]
Take [collect] from among yourselves a
terumah-offering to Ad-noy. Every man whose
heart impels him to generosity shall bring a
terumah-offering to Ad-noy: gold, silver and
copper, And greenish-blue wool, dark red
wool, ... incense of aromatic spices, and
onyx stones, and stones for setting into the
ephod and the breastplate.
Then we build it! [ibid, 10-19]
those who are wise in heart among you shall
come and make all that Ad-noy has commanded.
The mishkon, its tent and its cover,
.. The ark and its poles.. table and its
poles.. The menorah for light.. The altar
for burnt-offerings, .. the laver and its
base... The covering cloths for the holy
articles, and the sacred garments for Aharon
Yet one utensil, the kiyor
[laver/basin] appears to come from a wholly
different source [38:8]
He made the basin out of copper and its base
out of copper, from the maros hatzovos [
mirrors of the women who had gathered] at
the entrance of the Tent of Meeting.
What are these mirrors? A famous Rashi gives
us the background:
The daughters of Israel possessed mirrors ..
Even those they did not withhold from
bringing as a contribution for the mishkon.
However, Moshe found them repulsive since
their purpose is to incite the evil
inclination. G-d said to him: Accept
[them], for these are dearer to me than
everything else because through them the
women raised huge multitudes in Egypt.
When their husbands were exhausted from
their crushing labor they (the women) would
go and bring them food and drink and feed
them. They would then take the mirrors and
each one would look at herself and her
husband in the mirror, and entice him with
words, saying, "See! I am more beautiful
than you," thereby awakening their husbands'
desire and they would cohabit with them.
They conceived and gave birth there. As is
stated: "Under the apple-tree did I arouse
you." ... The wash-basin was made out of
them for it serves to bring about peace
between a man and his wife, ...
You can know yourself that these were actual
mirrors, for it is stated: "The total copper
donation was seventy kikar, etc. and he made
the sockets, the copper altar, all the
vessels of the altar, etc." 29-30]"
whereas the wash-basin and its base are not
mentioned there. Hence you have learned that
the copper of the wash-basin was not from
the donated copper.
It is this same episode that the Talmud
refers to when it states
In the merit of the righteous women were
bnei Yisrael redeemed
And yet while Hashem says these mirrors are
most dear to Him, Moshe is initially
repulsed by them. What is the "machlokes"
(dispute) between God and Moshe?
Certainly, Moshe is articulating a reality.
A British paper
reports in certain parts of the country,
Women admit to looki g in the mirror 71
times a day - the national average hovering
at about 34 peeks. For men, the number is
about 27. Another article reports that
while a, dog, cat or a horse wouldn't
realize that the image was a reflection of
itself, great apes - chimps, gorillas and
orangutans are capable of recognizing
themselves in the mirror and when presented
with the opportunity use mirrors to groom
themselves, pick food out of their teeth and
make faces at themselves for entertainment.
[more or less the same reactions as humans]
Mirrors as pure vehicles of vanity, as body
divorced from soul, don't belong in the
sanctuary. Moshe is correct; [bringing to
mind how a colleague would often silence his
boastful students' bench-pressing exploits,
by reminding them that "anything that a
horse can do better than you is probably not
worthy of adulation".]
Yet Hashem deems the mirrors dearer than
In this notion we may find a blueprint for
our engagement with the material world and a
classic Jewish conception of yetzer hara
(poorly translated as evil inclination)!
Consider that in our twice [thrice] daily
recitation of Shema, we say: "And you shall
love God bechol levavcha, with "all
our hearts" which [and since
we only have one heart,] Chazal understand
to refer to our inclinations. God implores
us to love Him with both our good (yetzer
tov) and evil (yetzer hara)
A famous Talmudic story is critical. The
scene: Post the Temple destruction, Chazal
pray to God for the Yetzer Hara's capture:
They prayed for mercy, and he was handed
over to them. God said to them: "Realize
that if you kill him, the world goes down".
They imprisoned him for three days, then
looked in the whole land of Israel for a
fresh egg and could not find it. (for all of
procreation had ceased even amongst the
animals). Thereupon, the Rabbis said: "What
shall we do now? Shall we kill him? The
world would then go down."
In other words, we do not serve G-d with our
spiritual nature while squelching our
physical desires. That might be easier, more
convenient and at times necessary in one's
spiritual development; the ultimate goal
however is to consecrate every aspect of our
existence. To paraphrase the Kotzker, we
must let God in everywhere; we must strive
"To see a world in a grain of sand and a
heaven in a wild flower". In short, we must
create holy harmony in all our worlds.
Is it not remarkable that the Hebrew word
for sin, cheit, can also refer to
spiritual immersion? Is it happenstance that
verb form of cheit often refers to an
off-target arrow? Hardly! - for sin is
the misuse of one's innate G-dly passion, an
arrow that has missed its mark!
Hashem says: these mirrors were
reflective of a great inner spirituality.
Atop the kiyor, they serve as
preparation and a reminder to the Kohen,
that as he is about to engage in Avodah in
the Temple, that everything can and be used
to serve Hashem.
A final classic Talmudic story: [Menachos
R. Nathan said, Go and learn from the
precept of zizith. Once a man, who was very
scrupulous about the precept of zizith,
heard of a certain harlot in one of the
towns by the sea who accepted four hundred
gold [denars] for her hire. He sent her ..
and appointed a day with her. When the day
arrived .. her maid came and told her, 'That
man who sent you four hundred gold [denars]
is here and waiting at the door'; to which
she replied 'Let him come in'. .. she
prepared for him seven beds, six of silver
and one of gold; and between one bed and the
other there were steps of silver, but the
last were of gold. She then went up to the
top bed ... He too went up after her ..
when all of a sudden the four fringes [of
his garment] struck him across the face; ...
he sat upon the ground and she also sat upon
"By the Roman Capitol, I will not leave you
alone until you tell me what blemish you saw
in me". 'By the Temple',he replied, 'never
have I seen a woman as beautiful as you are;
but there is one precept .. that God has
commanded us, .. zizith, twice it is written
'I am the Lord your God' .. I am He who will
exact punishment .. I am He who will give
reward. Now [the zizith] appeared to me as
four witnesses [testifying against me]'.
She said, 'I will not leave you until you
tell me your name, the name of your town,
the name of your teacher, the name of your
school in which you study the Torah'. He
wrote all this down and handed it to her.
Thus the man summoned unbelievable power to
resist temptation. He overcame his yetzer
hara. That yetzer hara propelled him to the
Beis Medrash where he learned with
unbelievable passion. He channeled his
yetzer hara. The woman is deeply moved by
Thereupon she arose and divided her estate
into three parts; one third for the
government,7 one third to be distributed
among the poor, and one third she took with
her in her hand; the bed clothes, however,
she retained. She then came to the Beth
Hamidrash of R. Meir, and said to him,
'Master, give instructions about me that
they make me a proselyte'. 'My daughter', he
replied; 'perhaps you have set your eyes on
one of the disciples?' She thereupon took
out the script and handed it to him.
The stunning Talmudic conclusion. Rabbi Meir
is moved by the woman's sincerity:
Go', said he 'and enjoy your acquisition'.
Those very bed-clothes which she had spread
for him for an illicit purpose she now
spread out for him lawfully.
Yetzer Hara, conquered, channeled and
To Hashem - there is nothing more dear in
Good Shabbos to all - Asher Brander
Cf. Sotah 11b. And it is this role
that ultimately makes them equally
obligated in the positive mitzvos of
Pesach - although this is a matter
of dispute beyond matzah and the
Daily Mail, Nov. 5, 2007
Indeed the gemara calls a mirror a
women's garment - thus prohibiting
men from adorning in front of it -
even as the poskim say that this
does not apply - it is quite
Cf. Rashi Sanhedrin
31b for an amazing story of Nosson