This week we read Vayakhel-Pekudei, the final portions that detail the
construction of the Mishkan. Amongst the vessel discussed is the kiyor -
the laver used by the kohanim to wash.
The Torah tells us "He made the Laver of copper and its base of copper,
from the mirrors of (women who reared) the legions who massed at the
entrance of the Tent of Meeting" (Exodus 38:8).
Mirrors? Where did they get mirrors from? And why would women's
mirrors, which clearly are a symbol of vanity, if not indulgence, become
the very essence of the utensil used to prepare the kohanim for sanctity?
Rashi tells us that Moshe had those exact reservations. He too, was
hesitant to accept mirrors as part of the Mishkan's makeup. How did
they become an integral part of the holy Mishkan?
After my grandfather, Rabbi Yaakov Kamenetzky, of blessed memory, had
officially retired from his position as Rosh Yeshiva of Mesivta Torah
Voda'ath and had moved to Monsey, New York, he still remained very
active not only in the needs of Klal Yisrael as a whole but in discussing
Torah with almost any student of Torah who would cross his threshold.
One afternoon a young scholar came to speak to my grandfather and share
his novella on the Talmud with him. As he sat at the table and was about
to begin sharing his self-concocted discourse, my grandmother entered the
room with a freshly baked piece of cake for my grandfather and the guest.
Before my grandfather had a chance to thank the Rebbitzin, the young man,
obviously steeped in his own thoughts, flippantly discarded her generous
"That's all right," he said, "but I already ate. I really
don't need another shtikel (piece) of cake."
My grandfather remained silently shocked. He said nothing. The
rebbitzen returned to the kitchen and then the young man began to speak.
"I would like to share with the Rosh Yeshiva a shtikel (piece of) Torah
thought that I formulated relating to a sugya in the Gemara in Yevamos."
My grandfather was quiet and then responded. "That's all right," he
said, "but I already heard Torah on that sugya. I really don't need
another shtikel Torah on that sugya."
When my grandfather saw that the boy realized that Rav Yaakov was chiding
him on his reckless indifference to the Rebbitzin, he went on to explain:
"You see, that piece of cake was her shtikel Torah. That was something
that she prided herself in. That is how she wanted to make me and you
feel comfortable. One has to appreciate that as well!"
Rashi explains in the name of the Midrash how Moshe was instructed by
Hashem to use the mirrors: "The Israelite women possessed mirrors of
copper into which they used to look when they adorned themselves. They
not hesitate to bring these mirrors as a contribution towards the
Tabernacle. Moshe wanted to reject them since they were made to pander
to their vanity, but the Holy One, blessed be He, said to him, 'Accept
them; these are dearer to Me than all the other contributions, because
through them the women reared those huge hosts in Egypt. When their
husbands were tired through the crushing labor they used to bring them
food and drink and induced them to eat; Then they would use the mirrors
to endear themselves to their husbands and awaken their husbands'
affection. They subsequently became the mothers of many children, as it
is said, (Shir haShirim :8:5) 'I awakened thy love under the apple
tree'; This is what it refers to when refers to when it states,
Maros Hatzovst "the mirrors of the women who reared the legions."
The Ribono Shel Olam saw the greatness of those mirrors. They were used
to enhance the harmony of the home and induce the love and appreciation
of husbands and wives. We have the power to transform the most mundane
object - even a most vain object into an item of immense value.