“The leaders brought the shoham stones and the stones
for the settings for the ephod and the breastplate.” (Exodus 35:27)
Last week, Moses explains to God why it would be a mistake to destroy the Israelites. This week God returns the favor by explaining to Moses why it would be a mistake e to refuse the Israelite women’s gifts for building the mishkan, or Tabernacle.
Parashat Vayakhel describes history’s first Kickstarter/crowdfunding campaign. Moses appeals to the people to contribute material to build the mishkan. The response is so immediate, heartfelt, and generous, Moses ends the campaign a day or two later because the goal has been surpassed.
Vayakhel then says, “He made the kiyor of copper and its base of copper, from the mirrors of the legions who massed at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting.” (Ex. 38:8) The kiyor is a basin the kohanim, or priests, use to wash their hands and feet. According to Rashi (an acronym for Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki, the pre-eminent 11th century Jewish commentator) Moses does not want to accept the women’s donation of their copper mirrors because mirrors symbolize vanity. Rashi has God rebuke Moses, telling him these particular gifts, “… are more dear to Me than everything else…” God explains: when the Israelite men would return exhausted from a day of slave labor in Egypt, the women would use their mirrors to highlight their beauty and to entice their husbands. As result, legions of Jewish children are born.
The women’s mirrors are so sacred, every single one is used in constructing the kiyor; this is why no measurements are given for it beforehand. Vayakhel makes an important spiritual statement: any act or object dedicated with intentionality to God’s service, is imbued with sanctity.
Gut Shabbos/Shabbat Shalom