“He made the wash basin of copper and its base of copper, from the mirrors of the women who gathered at the entrance to the Ohel Moed.”
– Sh’mos 38:8
The Mirrors Are the Most Precious of Gifts
The Torah specifies that the Wash Basin in the Mishkan was made of copper taken from the mirrors that the women brought as donations. Rashi explains that by telling us where the copper came from, the Torah is teaching a significant lesson.
Moshe Rabbeinu was appalled by the idea of using mirrors in the Mishkan, because they were used to enhance a woman’s beauty, which is a source for the yeitzer ha’ra. Yet Hashem said that not only should they be used, they were the most precious of all the items that were donated. In fact, the very reason Hashem wanted them to be used in the Mishkan was that the women used them to beautify themselves and attract their husbands.
How Could Moshe Rabbeinu Have Been So Mistaken?
The difficulty with this Rashi is how could Moshe Rabbeinu have been so mistaken? Chazal tell us he was the greatest human who ever existed. For forty days, he lived like an angel – without food, drink, or sleep – and learned the entire Torah. Yet he looked at these mirrors with disgust until Hashem told him that they were actually the most precious gift given. How is it possible that Moshe was so off in his understanding?
Boys and Girls Are Different
The answer to this question can be found by watching little children at play in the local public school yard. The girls will be off on one side of the yard playing jump rope or hopscotch, while the boys will be off on the other side playing tag or touch football. Even though the classes are mixed, in play it is rare to find boys and girls together.
The reason for this is that boys and girls are different. They have different interests, desires, and value systems. They are different in the way they behave, relate to each other, and communicate. In fact, boys and girls are so different that you would almost assume they come from different cultures, maybe even different planets. It isn’t that they are socialized or trained differently; it is that their inner makeup is fundamentally different.
As an example, studies show that when asked, “Who is your best friend?” three-year-old boys are as likely to name a girl as their best friend as they are a boy. At that age, mixed gender friendships are quite common. Yet, by the time this same group of children are five years old, only 20 percent will have a best friend from the opposite gender. By the time they are seven, it is almost nonexistent for a boy to have a best friend who is girl, or for a girl to have a best friend who is a boy – because by then they have almost nothing in common.
This separation and lack of interest continues until puberty when something remarkable happens: The boys become very interested in the girls, and the girls become very interested in the boys. It isn’t that their differences have disappeared. Quite the opposite, they are even stronger now, but there are powerful forces developing within them that pull them to each other – attraction and infatuation.
Why Did Hashem Create This State of Infatuation?
Hashem created these entities so that man and woman could marry. If it weren’t for these forces, a successful marriage would never exist. To ask two individuals, vastly different in nature, outlook, and temperament to live as one – this would never happen – it would be impossible.
To allow man and woman to create a successful union, Hashem put various forces into the person – attraction and infatuation are some of them. They are very powerful – so powerful that they can pull together two opposites and bring them together in harmony, peace, and love. However, as powerful tools, they can also easily be misdirected and misused.
Answer to Moshe Rabbeinu
The answer to the question on Moshe Rabbeinu seems to be that he was fully aware of the powerful force of attraction and the pull that it exerts. What he wasn’t aware of was the purity of the women who donated the mirrors. Hashem told him that these women were different. They used their beauty only for its intended purpose: to attract their husbands to them. These mirrors had become holy, as they had been used to strengthen the bond of love and devotion between husband and wife. The children brought forth from such a union were pure and exalted; therefore, these mirrors were the most precious of all the donations.
Lack of Understanding in Our Times
This concept has great relevance in our times. We live in an age when the very social fabric of society seems to be tearing apart at the seams. With divorce rates in the Western World hovering at 50 percent, the concept of raising children in a stable home seems to be a relic of the past.
One of the causes of this breakdown is the misuse of the very system that Hashem put into man to allow him to flourish. Attraction and infatuation are tools that, when used properly, allow a husband and wife to achieve harmony, tranquility, and peace. However, when misused, these forces no longer accomplish their intended purpose and the couple itself suffers – never quite understanding why their marriage doesn’t work anymore.
Understanding the purpose and proper use of these forces that Hashem created is one of the keys to living a successful life.
Born and bred in Kew Gardens Hills, R’ Ben Tzion Shafier joined the Choftez Chaim Yeshiva after high school. Shortly thereafter he got married and moved with his new family to Rochester, where he remained in for 12 years. R’ Shafier then moved to Monsey, NY, where he was a Rebbe in the new Chofetz Chaim branch there for three years. Upon the Rosh Yeshiva’s request, he stopped teaching to devote his time to running Tiferes Bnei Torah. R” Shafier, a happily married father of six children, currently resides in Monsey.