This week’s Torah portion describes how Moses conveyed to the Jewish people G‑d’s command to build the Sanctuary, how the Jewish people generously donated to its construction, and how Betzalel, a master-craftsman, and host of other artisans, fashioned the Sanctuary and its vessels from those donations.

Of unique interest is a particular incident that occurred in the course of these events. Although the men were also inspired to give openhandedly towards the construction of the Sanctuary, their generosity could not be compared to that of the women. The women were so enthusiastic about the prospect of building the Sanctuary that they did not withhold anything.

Among their possessions were copper mirrors. Where did they come from? Our Sages explain that in Egypt, the Jewish women had brightly polished mirrors which they used to make themselves attractive and entice their husbands after their back-breaking work in Egyptian slavery. They would go out to the fields to greet their husbands as they returned from work and would invite them to share a meal under the nearby trees. While sitting together, they would take out their mirrors and offer a reflection of themselves together with their husbands. Tired though they were, their husbands responded and in that way, conceived a generation of children who marched out of Egypt.

Whenthe women brought these mirrors as donations for the Sanctuary, Moses did not want to accept them. He did not deny the valuable contribution the women had made with these mirrors. Nevertheless, he did not see how they could be part of G‑d’s Sanctuary. Indeed, that thought actually disgusted Moses. In G‑d’s Sanctuary, His presence was to be manifest in an overtly apparent manner. These mirrors were “made for the yetzer hora,” to arouse man’s natural inclination. How could they be a medium for the revelation of G‑dliness?

The women, for their part, did not take back their gifts. Therefore, the mirrors were left “collected at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting,” awaiting direction from G‑d as to their fate.

G‑d instructed Moses: “Accept them, for they are more cherished by Me than everything else.” True, they had been “made for the yetzer hora,” but the intent behind their use was of the utmost holiness, for it was with utterly selfless intent that the Jewish women had conceived and raised a generation of children in Egyptian slavery. G‑d recognized their intent. He saw how it transformed the entire nature of the mirrors and therefore cherished their gifts.

The uniqueness of these mirrors was also reflected in the function the basin made from them served in the Sanctuary. The basin did not serve any purpose in the actual offering of the sacrifices. Instead, it was used for the priests to sanctify their hands and feet before taking part in the sacrificial worship. Nevertheless, precisely, this act is of unique significance, for the preparatory washing represents the transition from the realm of worldly affairs to the realm of holiness.

By sanctifying his hands and feet, a priest washed away the influences of the realm of evil. And in a certain way, the effort to purify oneself from evil possesses an advantage over the service with the realm of holiness itself. When G‑d sees the effort a Jew undertakes to perform this service, it is “more cherished by Him than everything else.”

Looking to the Horizon

The opening words of this week’s Torah reading contain an allusion to the redemption. Vayakhel Moshe means that Moses gathered the Jewish people together as a kahal, a people with a collective identity. And similarly with regard to the Redemption, it is written: “A great kahal will return here,” i.e., the Jews’ redemption will be accomplished through their bonding together as a unified people.

The essence of the idea is not only that there is strength in unity, but that unity is a means to draw down G‑d’s presence. As we say in our prayers, “Bless us our Father, all as one.” Implied is that when we are unified, we draw down G‑d’s presence and His blessings. The fundamental dimension of the Redemption will be the manifestation of G‑d’s presence and a) His presence will not dwell in a place of friction and strife, and b) unity is a medium which causes His presence to be manifest.