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Sunday, February 24, 2008

Vayakhel, Shemos 38:8. The Mar’os Hatzov’os and the Kiyor. Drasha for Sheva Brachos (#8)

Women came to Moshe Rabbeinu and offered to donate their mirrors for use in the building of the Mishkan.

Rashi says that Moshe Rabbeinu initially refused to take them, because he considered them inappropriate for the Mishkan. (Although he had already accepted other intimate jewelry, the Kumozos, those were merely a minor ingredient of the keilim in which they were used, whereas here the Mar’os Hatzov’os were to be the only source of the raw material used in fabricating the Kiyor {Ramban.})

But Hashem told Moshe that when the Jewish men in Egypt were demoralized and exhausted and bitter, they were for all practical purposes emasculated, and they had no physical relationship with their wives. But the women would take out their mirrors, and sit next to their husbands and look at their reflections in the mirrors, and they would say, “I’m so much prettier than you are!” and they would slowly re-awaken their husbands’ interest in marital relations. This ultimately generated the great number of Bnei Yisroel that experienced the Geulah. These mirrors, said Hashem, are more precious than any other nedavah, and Moshe certainly should accept them and use them.

Rabbeinu Bachaye and the Ramban here bring the Chazal quoted by Rashi. Then, they bring “Rebbi Avrohom,” the Ibn Ezra, who says (as is also clearly stated in Onkelos) that these women were ‘tzov’os pesach ohel mo’eid’, because all they did all day was stand near the Mishkan and daven, and they had completely abandoned all interest in cosmetics and foolishness, and this is why they donated their mirrors, because they had no use for or interest in them. The two explanations seems utterly contradictory. The first pshat indicates that these mirrors were holy because of their role in contributing to marital relationship. The second seems to say that they had been abandoned by their owners, who now spent all their time in purely spiritual activity, and they no longer had any connection to their original use.

But there really is no contradiction. Two women could use the mirrors in exactly the same way, to enhance their marital relationship with their husbands, and have completely different motivations. The one who sees her relationship with her husband as a spiritual bond, and who sees their marital relationship as a means of generating the spiritual elevation through their love, and to create a spirit of simcha and hope into him, is kodesh. If the relationship is an egoistic arrangement which serves the hedonistic impulse, it’s not kodesh at all. The way to tell the difference is to see how they act when they get older. When they come to a point where they are free of the duties of raising children and running a household, and when the natural physical drives drive diminish, what do they do with their time? Some will be at wit’s end, and not know what to do with themselves. These women will desperately take off on a grotesque and pathetic odyssey, trying to resuscitate the appearance and follies of youth. When this becomes too bizarre even for them, Mahjong and shopping and soap opera will fill the vacuum. But others will find the change liberates them to give expression to the holiness that always dwelled within them, and they will spend their time in saying tehillim and other pursuits that enable them to come to a state of dveikus with dvarim shebikdushoh. The Mar’os Hatzov’os of such women are holy.

R’ Hirsch says that it is particularly fitting that the kiyor was used to wash the hands and feet, because this symbolizes being m’kadeish one’s actions and behavior. A person can, through dedication to Hashem’s will, infuse with Kedusha and transform the most mundane or prosaic or even sensual activity. One’s work, or play, or eating, or marital relations, can and should be elements in avodas Hashem, and thereby changed in character from gashmi to ruchni.

Many people think of these parshios as repetitive, arcane, and so obscure as to be boring. In fact, however, these parshios teach us the most important lessons about the meaning and importance of true love. There is the lesson of the Mar'os Hatzov'os, as explained above. And remember, the Shechina spoke to Moshe from the space between the kruvim, which were the images of a young man and woman. What exists in the space between a husband and a wife as they look at each other? That space holds their love for each other, and that is where the Shechina appeared, because, as Chazal say, bizman shehashalom beineihem, Shechina beineihem. They become the Keruvim, and their home is filled with the spirit of holiness. But this is only true when the Keruvim stand atop the Aron Kodesh, which contains the Torah. The Kiyor and the Aron Hakodesh teach us that a loving relationship between husband and wife that is based on the Torah is the conduit of bringing Hashro’as Hashchina to Klal Yisroel.


Anonymous said...

I still cant get over the Ramban on this that says the women had a Beis Medrash where they learnt all day(using poetic license)

Barzilai said...

I looked at the Ramban again, and you're right-- they came to be mispaleil and "lishmo'a mitzvos Hashem."

I heard of an elite frum (dati? chareidi?) girl's high school in Israel that is called Pelech: see here
in Dave (Balashon)'s comment of 2/24 10 PM as to why they named it that. Maybe they should have named it "Mar'os Hatzov'os."

The Gemora in Shabbos 87/88 says that the delay of three days before mattan torah was in order that the women shouldn't have a din of poletes/ tuma yotz'ah migufoh. From there is a rayoh that it was kedai to delay mattan torah so that the women could be mekabeil properly, be'eima be'yir'ah be'rese ube'zei'ah, as it says in Brachos 21b. Of course, that might involve learning in order to know what to do, not the mitzvoh of limud hatorah le'sheim limud.