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by Efraim Levine

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And he made the laver of copper from the mirrors of the legions who massed at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting. (Shemos 37:8)

In this week’s parsha we read about the laver. The posuk tells us that it was made from “the mirrors of the legions who massed at the entrance of the tent of meeting.” Rashi here provides some background. During the difficult times of the Egyptian bondage the Jewish men separated from their wives. They believed it was improper to bring children into a world of suffering. Their wives disagreed. They faithfully believed that Hashem would soon bring an end to their suffering. It was best in their opinion to have children and preserve the continuity of the Jewish people. They used these mirrors to beautify themselves before their husbands in an attempt to persuade them to have children. Their arguments and actions prevailed and they succeeded in raising a new generation. Despite the lofty intent of the women, Moshe initially did not want to use them for the mishkan. They were repulsive in his eyes due to their mundane use. Hashem disagreed. Hashem explained to Moshe how dear these mirrors were to Him. They were instruments of faith and it was thus fitting they it be included in the mishkan.

The commentators ask, after Hashem instructed Moshe that they be used for the construction of the mishkan why did Moshe specifically designate them for the laver? What is the symbolic connection between that laver and the mirrors?

One answer given by the commentators is that the laver is related to the parsha of sotah. If a woman’s loyalty to her husband is in question she is brought to the mishkan and tested by drinking a potion of water in which the name of Hashem was erased. If the woman is guilty she would miraculously die. If she is innocent she would be blessed with children. The water used for this test was taken from the laver. It was precisely because these mirrors were used in the past to strengthen the relationship between husband and wife that Moshe saw fit that they continue to serve this purpose. They were therefore used for the laver from where water would be taken to test the relationship between husband an wife.

Let us suggest another answer. It is noteworthy that the function of the laver was different that all the other utensils of the mishkan. All other utensils were used to serve Hashem. There are many types of services in the mishkan. One may offer a sacrifice, an incense offering, light the menorah, eat sacrificial meat or some other type of service. Each utensil in the mishkan was used for a specific type of service. The laver was different. Washing from the laver is not a service. Washing from the laver is preparation for service. Before one may serve Hashem one must cleanse oneself from all physical and spiritual contamination. The laver is symbolic of preparation.

As mentioned above, the mirrors were tools of beautification. When Moshe specifically designated the mirrors for the laver, Moshe taught the Jewish people that the true beatification in service of Hashem comes from preparation. The more one prepares the more beautiful his service will be.

The Gemara (Shabbos 133b) derives the source that we beautify the mitzvos from the posuk “this is my Hashem and I will glorify him” (Shemos 15:2). The Gemara explains that this posuk may also be interpreted as “I will beautify Him.” The Gemara goes on to give a number of examples of beautification of mitzvos; a beautiful succah, a beautiful lulav, a beautiful shofer, beautiful tzitzis and a beautiful sefer torah. The obvious question is, why did the Gemara choose to illustrate the concept of beatification of mitzvos specifically with these examples?

We may suggest that the common denominator of these mitzvos is that they all require preparation. There is a mitzvah to live in a sukkah on the holiday of sukkos, however one is not permitted to build a sukkah on yom tov. One must prepare for this mitzvah by building his sukkah before the holiday. There is a mitzvah to take a lulav on the first day of sukkos. This mitzvah requires that one tie the myrtle and willow to the luluv. However it is forbidden to tie on yom tov. One must prepare his lulav before yom tov in order to fulfill the mitzvah on yom tov. The same is true for the remaining three examples. One must undergo elaborate preparations to attain a kosher shofer and tzizis before the fulfillment of the mitzvah. The writing of a complete sefer torah certainly requires much time. With regard to all mitzvos the best way to prepare is to study the laws and customs that apply to that mitzvah. Preparation does not only sanctify the mitzvah it is its beautification.


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© Efraim Levine 5760/2000 - 5763/2003