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Kenneth Brander
President and Rosh HaYeshiva, Ohr Torah Stone

Whatever steps necessary: Mirrors, preparation and redemption (Parshat Ki Tisa)

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Wherever you are in the world, I’m sure just like in Israel, there are signs all over the place encouraging one to wash one’s hands in order to stop the spread of COVID.

The truth is, that in the Temple, there was also a vessel that was used for the washing of one’s hands – albeit not for hygienic reasons, because that was required before one entered into the Tabernacle – but rather as a way to prepare for certain ritual activities. [Exodus 30:17-21]

In fact, this idea is also seen in our time: before the priest performs his priestly blessings (ברכת כהנים), he is involved in a ritual washing [Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayyim 128:6].

In fact, we’re all involved in a ritual washing before we consume bread [ibid., 158:1], which highlights the significance of eating, in that it empowers us to make changes in the world; and which highlights the priest’s ability to be the conduit through which the blessings of God are given to His people.

With regard to every other device, we are told its specific size. But this laver (כיור) is the only device in the Tabernacle about whose dimensions the Torah does not specify. That is because the laver (כיור) was built with mirrors that were collected from the women, who used them in Egypt to beautify themselves, to entice their husbands, to have relationships with them, even though they were in servitude, even though they were exhausted, in order to perpetuate, to guarantee, the future of the Jewish people. [Rashi on Exodus 38:8]

And therefore this structure is not predicated on its specific size; rather, it is really the accumulation of all of the mirrors that were contributed in order to build this device that represents preparation for engagement with God.

You see, preparation for engagement with God, or for that matter, preparation for engagement with our spouses, with our children, with anything important requires preparation (הכנה), and therefore this device, this laver (כיור) was built with the mirrors from the women.

It was built as a means to remind us that to engage in something important requires a proper mindset, requires proper preparation, something that we should be asking ourselves in anything important that we do:

Are we walking into it with the proper preparation? Do we have an understanding of the true role of the laver (כיור), that was in the Tabernacle?

Shabbat Shalom.

About the Author
Rabbi Dr. Kenneth Brander is President and Rosh HaYeshiva of Ohr Torah Stone, an Israel-based network of 30 educational and social action programs transforming Jewish life, living and leadership in Israel and across the world. He is the rabbi emeritus of the Boca Raton Synagogue and founder of the Katz Yeshiva High School. He served as the Vice President for University and Community Life at Yeshiva University and has authored many articles in scholarly journals.
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