Every aspect of the Mishkan, our portable Tabernacle/Temple before we entered the holy land, was designed with great detail and to exacting specifications. We read them once in Parashat Terumah and then again in this week’s Parasha. Only one piece of Mishkan furniture is related just once and has no specific dimensions. Indeed, Midrash tells us that Moshe did not even want to accept the gifts brought for its building. What would that be? The Menorah? The Table for the Show Breads? The Altar? The Ark? Good guesses! But, the correct answer is the Wash Basin (they call it a Laver in fancy English and the Kiyor in Hebrew) ).
It was the very large copper basin where the Kohanim washed their hands and feet before performing their services. (Shemot 38:8). It was not made from the copper brought from the regular contributions. It was made from the brightly polished sheets of copper that the women used as mirrors. Moshe thought that instruments used for personal beautification and to incite lust should not be used for the Mishkan.
In the Midrash, God tells Moshe to accept these gifts as most precious. When the men had given up hope in the depths of slavery and Pharaoh’s decrees against Hebrew babies and returned to their homes utterly exhausted, the women had used the mirrors to help give the men other ideas. Those ideas perpetuated our people.
The dimensions of the Kiyor are not given because Moshe was instructed to use each and every mirror brought as a gift. While other gifts brought for the construction of the Mishkan were of the spoils the Hebrews took out of Egypt, the mirrors brought by the women were their own deeply personal items given in total, selfless sincerity. They had elevated the most simple and mundane to the most holy and pure. We learn that it is not what we have, but what we do with it that matters most and that God treasures.
In using the mirrors as they did, our women proved once again how our people rely upon them for their wisdom and the quality of their judgment and perspective in difficult times.
This Shabbat we are privileged to learn with Rabbi Herbert Yoskowitz, teacher extraordinaire, who will help us find greater meaning in the Parasha on the topic: Dealing With the Psychic Intensity of the Incomprehensible: Learning from the Genius of Bezalel. Please join us at 10:00 a.m. Come as you are. Stay as long as you like. Satisfaction guaranteed.