“Mirror, mirror on the wall. Who is the fairest of them all?” I gaze into the mirror. For once, it’s spotless. My Passover cleaning has done away with any smudges or fingerprints. I look at my reflection and give a heavy sigh. It’s the first year that I don’t have my mother-in-law to call for advice about Passover cleaning or making the family charoset. I see a sad face in the mirror. A tear falls from my eye. I wipe it away and look again. “Smile, Elana. Do what she would do. Do what she would want. Be beautiful and smile.”Who is the fairest of them all?

My mother-in-law, Mrs. Frida Mizrahi, always had a twinkle in her eye and a smile on her face. She was always dressed-up and elegant, her home always neat and welcoming. Everything she made was delicious, and looked it, too. Every word she spoke to us, her children, was encouraging and positive. Mrs. Frida Mizrahi was, if I can be so bold as to describe her in a mere word, beautiful.

I clean the mirror one more time and ask it, “Mirror, mirror on the wall. Am I, too, beautiful?”

The sages tell us that due to the merit of the righteous women G‑d redeemed the nation of Israel from Egypt, and through the merit of the righteous women we will be redeemed again. What was the merit of the women in Egypt?

The Midrash describes how these women, who lived a life of slavery and torture, made themselves beautiful. After working a very long, hard day of backbreaking labor, the women would catch and cook some fish. They then put on makeup and made themselves attractive. They proceeded to serve the fish to their husbands, who had returned from torturous labor, and entice them with the mirrors. “Look how beautiful I am!” a woman would say to her husband. She would tease him, “I’m more attractive then you!” He would look into the mirror and see his wife. He would see himself. With the mirrors, all the pain dissolved, and they lovingly came together.

With the mirrors, there was faith and there was desire. Faith and desire led to redemption.

I always wondered about this Midrash. Why the mirrors? Yes, these women of faith knew that G‑d would redeem them, and therefore they continued having children. Yes, they brought the redemption with their faith and belief in the future. But why did they have to use mirrors?

Why? Because it’s not enough to look and be beautiful. You Why did they have to use mirrors?have to see your own beauty. Beauty, real beauty, is not superficial. True beauty is internal, and if you can’t see it and don’t reflect it, then there isn’t any beauty to see. The women of Egypt had the power to not only make things beautiful, even amongst the most difficult circumstances, but they had the power to help their spouses see that beauty within themselves, as well.

Those encouraging words, those smiles and twinkling eyes. The optimism and positivity. The power to reflect goodness and help others see their own goodness and beauty. This was the merit of the Jewish woman in Egypt. She gave hope. She had faith. She had desire. This is the legacy of my mother-in-law, a Jewish woman who poured her heart out in prayer for her family, who fed and took care of everyone with such joy, who made everything and everyone beautiful—this is what she taught me.

Her precious soul returned to her Maker just a short time ago, but as I gaze into the mirror, I smile and I see her smile back at me. I’ll set my table this Passover, and I’ll do what a Jewish woman is empowered to do—I’ll bring the redemption closer. And I’ll make it beautiful.