Shabbat Commentary

25/26 Feb : Vayakhel : Shabbat comes in 5:18 pm, ends 6:22 pm

Parashat Vayakhel – Mirror, Mirror, in the Mishkan
Sefer Sh’mot can be divided into roughly three parts: the story of slavery and exodus;
revelation at Mt Sinai; and the instructions for building the mishkan, the portable sanctuary of
the wilderness.

Here at the end, we have an allusion to a particular disagreement between
Moses and the Divine regarding the physical structure of the sanctuary itself, embedded into
a strange verse:
‘He made the laver of copper and its stand of copper,’ explains Exodus 38:8, ‘from the
mirrors of the assembling women at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting.’
What is the significance of these mirrors? The midrash explains that these were the mirrors
that the wives in slavery used in flirtation with their husbands, and that it was through these
flirtations that the Israelites continued to procreate during slavery. When the mishkan was
being built and the people were bringing gifts, the Israelite women presented their mirrors,
but Moses intended to reject them; mirrors, after all, are symbols of vanity. God, however,
insisted on their inclusion.

These mirrors bring us back to the beginning of Sefer Sh’mot. When we tell this story during
Pesach, we focus on the place of the Divine within the story; without God, after all, we would
still be slaves to Pharaoh. However, here at the end of the book, we are reminded of our own
resilience. Divine intervention was necessary to bring us to liberation, but human resilience
was a necessary factor in living to see freedom.

Shabbat shalom,
Rabbi Natasha


















February 22, 2022