Musings of an Orthodox Jew

Thoughts on Torah and the Jewish world today.

Vayakel-Pekudei 5769- A Kiyor (Laver) made of mirrors; peace and sexuality

This week parsha goes through the making of the implements of the Mishkan yet again before giving a ful audit of how the material donated was used.  The amount of each item is tallied, the amounts used are tallied; we are shown the honesty of the workers involved, that when there was sufficient material they ALL came to Moses to get him to get the people to stop- no one hoped to get a bit extra for themselves.  Through all of this we are told of the weaving, what was made of gold, what was made of copper etc.  There is an additional bit of detail given to when it came to make the Kiyor (the basin used to wash the hands and feet of the Kohanim)- here we are told that it was not only made of copper- but that it was specifically made of the mirrors of the women that congregated around the Tent of Meeting.  What was so special about these mirrors, why do they get mentioned whereas for everything else only the byproduct they were made from is mentioned?  We don’t know where rings, necklaces, etc were used- just that they were melted down and the gold and silver used in various implements.

Ramban comments on this, first giving a Midrash to explain it- as well as a two more mundane explanation.  To start with the mundane:  The mirrors were made from a superior grade of copper that could be shined to a point that it provided an excellent reflection, thus they were used to make the Kiyor to honour it.  This continues that initially only the righteous women there donated their mirrors, but when others saw the purpose for which the mirrors were being set aside, they rushed to bring theirs as well.  The Midrash he brings states the following:  Initially Moshe did not want to accept the mirrors as donation due to their role in encouraging physical intimacy.  However, Hashem pointed out to him that it was because of the role of the women- who after working all day used those mirrors to beautify themselves thus created peace and harmony in the home and enabled the building of the Jewish nation into a great and mighty nation!

The role of the Kiyor in the process of the Sotah emophasises this fact.  The Sotah is the women who, after having being warned by her husband not to seclude herself with a man, did so- and to establish her guilt and innocence they travelled to Jerusalem and she was given a special potion to drink.  The water for this concoction was gathered form the Kiyor.  How does this relate to the mirrors?  The role of the bitter waters drunk by the Sotah is to restore peace between husband and wife- just as the women used the mirrors to restore peace between then and their husbands.

There is perhaps another lesson to be learnt here- that of the fact that abstinence is not what makes us spiritual- but everything within its own context can enhance spirituality- including sexuality!  Where do we see this?  In the Midrash Moshe doesn’t want the mirrors because of their role in encouraging physical relations between the sexes- yet Hashem tells him to take them because of that very reason!  The women’s usage of the mirror was not to entice just any man; it wasn’t an act of licentiousness or promiscuity, but one of shalom bayit (peace in the home), of encouraging permitted, and desired relations, of increasing the nation.  Sexuality is not a negative in itself- but only if misused.  This is further emphasised by the fact that the Torah states the mirrors were from the “women who congregated at the Tent of Meeting”.  What were they doing there?  These were the women who came to sit and learn from Moshe when he taught there on a daily basis!

So let us learn the correct lesson from here- to guide our actions in such a way that they are permissable and enjoyable.  We do not need to deny ourselves when we serve Hashem, just guide our actions into the permitted paths to improve ourselves and the outside world.

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March 16, 2009 - Posted by | Parshah, Torah | , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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