VAYAKHEL\PEKUDEI (Exodus, 35:1‑ 40:38) — “Mirror, Mirror in the Sink…” /PARSHAS HACHODESH

PARSHAS HACHODESH (Exodus, 12:1-20) 

This Shabbos will be a very busy one in the synagogues of the world.  As is done every regular Saturday, we will read the weekly Torah Portion. (Actually, Torah Portions – this week is one of those times in the year when the calendar requires us to combine two portions into one. – See “Simchas Torah – Ahead to the Past and Back to the Future”)  Then we will continue preparing ourselves for Passover by reading the Torah Portion that announces the advent of the Month of Nissan, the first month of the Jewish year.  (See “Nissan Maximum” and “Double Dating”.)

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van·i·ty [vánn tee ] (plural van·i·ties) noun …6… a low table with a mirror attached to the top…so that a woman can sit at it when putting on her makeup. …
7…  a cabinet that holds a sink… — (Encarta® World English Dictionary)

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I don’t know how they do it.  It’s reached the point that I’m afraid to turn on the radio.  Who knows what terrible news we’ll hear next?  

Somehow life goes on…Israeli farmers farm, and storeowners sell their wares.  To be painfully honest, I find it amazing that more Israelis don’t pack up and leave.  I sit and wonder what I would do…

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Moses had a dilemma. 

Donations were coming in for the Tabernacle.  This portable structure was to serve as a Temple in the desert.  The entire community actively and enthusiastically participated in the fund-raising efforts.  Donations of silver, gold, and other precious items were pouring in.  Everyone wanted to give something that would be used in construction of the building or the vessels. 

One of the vessels in the Tabernacle was the “Kiyor,” a washstand made out of copper.  This sink would be used by the Kohanim – Priests to wash their hands and feet before the Temple Service.  Donations of copper had come in, but Moses was reluctant to accept them. 

The problem was that women had donated their polished copper mirrors.  They wanted to have their mirrors melted down and made into a copper sink. 

Moses was repulsed.  How could he accept these mirrors?  The Tabernacle was to be a holy place filled with holy vessels! These mirrors represented vanity.  Women would sit in front of these mirrors for hours on end preening and painting and brushing themselves…What could be more secular and unG-dly than a woman trying to make herself beautiful? How could Moses permit such vanity in G-d’s house? 

The copper basin was to be used by the Priests to sanctify themselves.  They would not be permitted to perform the Temple Service without it.  Moses felt that it would be distasteful and inappropriate to make such a holy item out of these unholy mirrors. 

Moses’ reluctance was overruled: “Accept them,” said G-d, “because these are dearest to Me of all, for by means of them, the women established many legions in Egypt.” (From Rashi‘s commentary on Exodus, 38:8.) 

The Egyptians had been very concerned about the Jewish population explosion.  They HAD to find a way to cut back the Jewish birthrate.  The plan was to overwork the slaves so that they would collapse from exhaustion.  The men were so weary at the end of the day that “family planning” was the farthest thing from their minds.  In this way, the Egyptians hoped to undermine Jewish family life, and thereby reduce the number of children in Jewish families. 

The Israelite women had to counter this Egyptian holocaust.  They saw the need to build the Jewish Nation.  Armed with their mirrors and faith in G-d, they made themselves attractive to their husbands and built a Jewish future. 

Now Moses understood what was so special about those mirrors.  They symbolized not vanity and sensuality, but faith and dedication.  What better material could one possibly find for making the copper basin for the Temple!

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It is very easy to understand why an Egyptian Jew would be reluctant to bring children into the world.  There was nothing to look forward to but slavery and persecution.  Moses himself, when returning to Egypt to lead his People out, left his children with his in-laws, where they would be safe! 

However, the Daughters of Israel would not be deterred.  The Egyptians, with all their evil plans, would not prevent them from living normal lives.  They would, come what may, be wives to their husbands and mothers to their children. 

Throughout the millennia, in times of trouble, the Mothers of Israel have demonstrated phenomenal strength and trust in G-d.  Whether it was rejecting the Golden Calf or breaking the ice on frozen Mikvahs, they went about their daily lives and never let adversity stand in their way. 

Such strength deserves recognition in the Temple.  Those mirrors earned their place in the copper washbasin. 

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This is the strength of our Israeli brothers and sisters.  They have learned an important lesson from Egypt.  Our Israeli brethren realize that if we despair, our enemies win. Our enemies are not the masters of our destiny; G-d is. Therefore, they continue to go about their daily lives with faith and with prayer. 

May they too see their efforts rewarded in the rebuilt Temple in Jerusalem.

Have a great Shabbos.

Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz

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FROM THE ARCHIVES

Some years the two Torah Portions of Vayakheil and Pekudei are  read together, and some years they are read on two separate Sabbaths.  For your convenience.  For your convenience, I present both Portions:

 

Links to this week’s first Torah Portion:

“Mirror, Mirror In The Sink…” (2010)

 … Moses had a dilemma. 

Donations were coming in for the Tabernacle…The problem was that women had donated their polished copper mirrors.  They wanted to have their mirrors melted down and made into a copper sink. 

Moses was repulsed.  How could he accept these mirrors?  The Tabernacle was to be a holy place filled with holy vessels! These mirrors represented vanity.  Women would sit in front of these mirrors for hours on end preening and painting and brushing themselves…What could be more secular and unG-dly than a woman trying to make herself beautiful? How could Moses permit such vanity in G-d’s house? …

Read more.

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“The Architect” (2008) 

The donations were pouring in.  Moses had put out the word that he was accepting contributions of precious items for the construction of the Tabernacle… 

It was a massive project.  There were plenty of good-hearted people willing to help.  What was still needed was someone to pull it all together…

Now the Tabernacle crew had a foreman.  Bezalel, the head architect and his assistant Oholiav, were given their mandate:  Coordinate the volunteers into a cohesive, organized work force, and build the House of G-d. 

… the Torah uses a very unusual terminology:  “Observe that G-d has selected Bezalel…” 

What did Moses mean by “Observe…”?  What is there to observe?  …

Rabbi Feinstein answered that Bezalel’s assignment should have been obvious… 

Read more.

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 “The King’s Day Off” (2006) 

What’s wrong with driving on Saturday?  If G-d doesn’t want me to work, fine, I’ll take off from work.  I’ll spend a pleasant day with the family.  We’ll drive to the local orchard and pick apples.  Then go to the park and have a barbeque, maybe take in a movie.  Then we’ll go home and I’ll help my son build a tree house.  What could be more relaxing? 

Read more.

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 “(Madison Square) Garden of Eden” (2005) 

… Lublin, Poland.  Once a center of Jewish life, it was one of the first Polish cities that the Nazis succeeded in declaring Judenrein… The Nazis derived great pleasure in burning the library of Yeshiva Chachmei Lublin in 1939.  There were so many books that the dastardly deed took twenty hours to complete.  But in their perverted sense of values, twenty hours were a small investment to pay for the dividend of destroying Rabbi Shapiro’s work and silencing the voice of Torah study.  Jewish Lublin was dead.  The Rabbi of Lublin’s dream was crushed and destroyed, never to rise again. 

Or, perhaps not… 

Read more.

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“Missing Yud = Missing YID!” (2003) 

… the High Priest… wore an Ephod, a type of apron that had two jewels on the shoulder strap, and a breastplate that had twelve stones.  These 14 stones were donated by the Nesi’im, the Princes of each tribe. 

… there was something lacking in their donation.  When Moses let the word out that he was accepting contributions for building the Tabernacle, the twelve Tribal Princes, men of great wealth, offered to underwrite the project.  They committed themselves to make up whatever shortfall there might be in communal donations.  There was no shortfall.  The Nation of Israel responded to the call, and in two days, Moses had more than he needed.  There was nothing left for the Princes to donate except for the 14 stones. 

Why are the Nesi’im criticized?  Shouldn’t they be praised for taking the initiative to insure that everything would be provided? … 

Read more.

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Links to this week’s second Torah Portion:

“Four-tenths of an Ounce of Prevention…” (2008) 

…Haman hated Jews.  He wanted, more than anything, to destroy them.  Being a superstitious man, he decided to draw lots (“Purim” in Hebrew) to see when would be a good time to wipe out his enemies.  He drew the month of Adar.  Haman was thrilled.  Well-versed in Jewish history as he was, he knew that Adar was the month during which Moses died.  Obviously, Adar must be a bad month for Jews.  His mistake was that Moses was also BORN during Adar, a particularly auspicious event for the People of Israel. 

…Haman hated us so much that he was even willing to pay the bill for our slaughter.  And the king, no lover of Jews himself, told Haman he could keep the money.  The extermination would be “on the house.”

Miscalculating the significance of the month of Adar was not Haman’s only mistake… 

Read more.

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 “Wasting Shekels and Wasting TALENTS” (2005) 

Beware the Ides of April! 

With tax time little more than a month away, we must to remember to do it right.  Make sure you have receipts for all your donations and business expenses.  After all, what will happen if the IRS calls you in for an audit? 

On the Jewish calendar, this week is tax time AND audit time. … 

Moses feared the appearance of impropriety.  First, he collects precious stones, metals and other materials for the Tabernacle.  Suddenly, he’s driving a Lexus!  Now, how does that look?  He ordered an audit in order to demonstrate that everything collected was used for the Tabernacle.  Nothing was “skimmed off the top.”… 

“That’s it?!” I asked out loud in my passenger-less car.  THAT eyesore is what two intelligent people spent twenty-one million dollars of their own money on?! … 

Read more. 

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 “I Saw the Face of G-d!” (2004) 

…”The cloud covered the Tent of Meeting, and G-d’s glory filled the Tabernacle.”  (Ibid. 40:34) 

G-d allowed the Shechina, His Divine Presence, to be apparent for all the world to see.  The Tabernacle, and later, the Temple in Jerusalem, was a place where miracles were a daily event.  One could not spend the day in this place and deny the existence of G-d. 

Sadly, this Divine Presence is much harder to perceive than it used to be.  Even in the Second Temple, many of the blatantly obvious miracles no longer took place.  G-d is no longer so easy to find. 

Or is He?… 

Read more.

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“You have to PRAY Attention!” (2003) 

… IF YOU PUT ON TEFILLIN WHILE THINKING ABOUT TREES FALLING IN THE FOREST WHERE NO ONE CAN HEAR THEM FALL, DID YOU PUT ON TEFILLIN???

… Every family has its own private jokes. One of ours is “Delicious Soup.”… 

Read more.

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“Sure, You’ve Got the Keys, But Who’s Really Driving?”  (2001) 

…The entire Nation of Israel worked together — weavers, embroiderers, silversmiths — craftsmen of many disciplines performed this labor of love to build a House of G-d… the people brought all the parts to Moses because they weren’t able to put it all together due to the weight of the beams.  Now Moses was expected to do it for them! 

How, wondered Moses, would any human be able to put those massive timbers together?!  … 

Read more.

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 This is the weekly message at www.torahtalk.org.   Copyright © 2000-2011 by Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz.  May be reprinted. Please include copyright information.

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Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz is a Mohel (www.Brisrabbi.com)  and chaplain in Monsey, New York. For information about scheduling a Bris or a lecture, or just to say hello, call (800) 83MOHEL.

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Published in: on March 11, 2010 at 7:27 am  Leave a Comment  

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