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Mirrors of Love
Rabbi Lord Jonahan Sacks
he orah in Parsha Vayakhel, which describes he making o he Mishkan, goes ou o is way o emphasize he role women played in i:
Te men accompanied he women, and hose who waned o make a donaion brough braceles, earrings, ﬁnger rings, and body ornamens, all made o gold. (35: 22)
Every skilled woman pu her hand o spinning, and hey [all] brough he spun yarn o sky-blue wool, dark red wool, crimson wool and ﬁne linen. Highly skilled women voluneers also spun he goas’ wool. (35: 25-26).Every man and woman among he Israelies who el an urge o give somehing or all he work ha God had ordered hrough Moses, brough a donaion or God. (35: 29)Indeed he emphasis is even greaer han i seems in ranslaion, because o he unusual locuion in verse 22, Vayavo-u ha-anashim al hanashim, which implies ha he women came o make heir donaions ﬁrs, and he men merely ollowed heir lead (Ibn Ezra, Ramban, Rabbenu Bachye).Tis is all he more sriking since he orah implies ha he women reused o conribue o he making o he Golden Cal (see he commenaries o Ex. 32: 2). Te women had a sense o judgmen in he religious lie – wha is rue worship, and wha alse – ha he men lacked.Kli Yakar (R. Shlomo Ephraim Lunschiz, 1550 –1619) makes he urher poin ha since he abernacle was an aonemen or he Golden Cal, he women had no need o conribue a all, since i was he men no he women who needed aonemen. None he less, women gave, and did so beore he men.Mos moving, hough, by ar is he crypic verse:
He [Bezalel] made he copper washsand and is copper base ou o he mirrors o he dedicaed women [ha-zove’o] who congregaed a he enrance o he Communion en. [Ex. 38: 8]
Te sages (in Midrash anhuma) old a sory abou his. Tis is how Rashi ells i:
Israelie women owned mirrors, which hey would look ino when hey adorned hemselves. Even hese [mirrors] hey did no hold back fom bringing as a conribuion oward he Mishkan, bu Moses rejeced hem because hey were made or empaion [i.e., o inspire lusul houghs]. Te Holy One, blessed is He, said o him, “Accep [hem], or hese are more precious o Me han anyhing because hrough hem he women se up many legions [i.e., hrough he children hey gave birh o] in Egyp.” When heir husbands were weary fom back-breaking labour, hey [he women] would go and bring hem ood and drink and give hem o ea. Ten hey [he women] would ake he mirrors and each one would see hersel wih her husband in he mirror, and she would seduce him wih words, saying, “I am more beauiul han you.” And in his way hey aroused heir husbands’ desire and would be inimae wih hem, conceiving and giving birh here, as i is said: “Under he apple ree I aroused you” (Song 8:5). Tis is [he meaning o] wha is
[li., he mirrors o hose who se up legions]. From hese [he mirrors], he washsand was made.
Te sory is his. Te Egypians sough no merely o enslave, bu also o pu an end o, he people o Israel. One way o doing so was o kill all male children. Anoher was simply o inerrup normal amily lie. Te people, boh men and women, were labouring all day. A nigh, says he Midrash, hey were orbidden o reurn home. Tey slep where hey worked. Te inenion was o desroy boh privacy and sexual desire, so ha he Israelies would have no more children.Te women realised his, and decided o rusrae Pharaoh’s plan. Tey used mirrors o make hemselves atracive o heir husbands. Te resul was ha inimae relaions resumed. Te women conceived and had children (he “legions” reerred o in he wordzove’o). Only because o his was here a new generaion o Jewish children. Te women, by heir aih, courage and ingenuiy, secured Jewish survival.Te Midrash coninues ha when Moses commanded he Israelies o bring oﬀerings o make he abernacle, some brough gold, some silver, some bronze, some jewels. Bu many o he women had nohing o value o conribue excep he mirrors hey had brough wih hem rom Egyp. Tese commimen o our mesorah as has been augh o us by our illusrious rashei yeshiva over he pas many decades. And we have also appreciaed wha we have in common wih oher Jews and wih he world a large. Are we a par o he world or are we apar rom i? Te answer is ha we are boh, like Moshe in he cloud and he Jewish people in he sea, and we are boh a he very same ime.