The Torah portion of Sisa contains the command to make the kiyor, the basin1 used by the kohanim to wash their hands and feet before performing a service in the Mishkan. All other vessels of the Mishkan are described in the previous portions of Terumah and Tetzaveh. Why is the kiyor not included with the rest?

Some Torah commentators explain2 that this was because the use of the kiyor merely served as a preparation for the service in the Mishkan, and did not constitute service in and of itself. Because it was not used for actual service, it was therefore not included in the Torah portions that describe those vessels that were so used.

The fact that the kiyor merely served as a preparation also finds expression in its physical dimensions: Our Sages3 derive from the verse:4Moshe, Aharon and his children shall wash therefrom….” that the kiyor must be large enough to be used by four kohanim simultaneously, since “Moshe and Aharon are two; Aharon’s children are another two.”5

Why was it necessary that for all time the kiyor be large enough to be used by four individuals, when Moshe — one of the original four — used it only during the seven days during which the Mishkan was dedicated;6 later the kiyor was used only by Aharon and his children?7

The explanation is as follows. The seven dedicatory days served as a preparatory stage to the service that would follow through Aharon and his sons. Since the kiyor, too, served as a preparation, it follows that Moshe’s service in the preparatory stage that utilized the preparatory kiyor should be included as well for all time.

From the above it is understood that although the kiyor merely served as a preparation, it nevertheless displayed a special quality that made it stand out from all other vessels in the Mishkan, for which reason the quality of Moshe is particularly alluded to with reference to the kiyor — the kiyor must be large enough to include not only kohanim but Moshe as well.

These contrasting features of the kiyor — on one hand it is but a preparation, on the other hand Moshe’s quality is clearly revealed therein — are also hinted at by the copper mirrors from which it was made.

On one hand, the copper mirrors — whose main use was for the enhancement of physical beauty — symbolized something base and ignoble. So much so that Moshe, notwithstanding his great love for all Jews,8 found these mirrors offensive, made as they were “for the sake of the evil inclination.”9 Conversely, it was with regard to these selfsame mirrors that G‑d said: “I cherish these above all else.”10

How can we explain this contradiction.?

The novel aspect of building the Mishkan11 lay in the fact that Jews were able to take physical objects and transform them into a Temple for G‑d, fulfilling G‑d’s “earnest desire for a dwelling place in the nethermost levels.”12 And it was specifically these copper mirrors that represented the lowest level of all, since they were made to increase enticement — “for the sake of the evil inclination.”

Moshe found these mirrors offensive, for he wanted G‑d’s Essence to be revealed within the Mishkan. Since things that are bound up with the evil inclination conceal G‑d’s Essence even after they have been refined,13 Moshe felt that the use of these mirrors was inappropriate. And as for achieving a dwelling place “in the nethermost level,” in Moshe’s view, the other physical objects used in the construction of the Mishkan were sufficiently “nethermost.”

G‑d, however, informed Moshe that it is necessary for the Mishkan to possess — and thereby transform — even something so lowly as an item made “for the sake of the evil inclination.” It is specifically the transformation of tangible evil that G‑d “cherishes above all else.”

Based on Likkutei Sichos, Vol. VI, pp. 196-199.