Our view of the Galile

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Reflections of Beauty-Vayakhel pikudei Chodesh 2013

Insights and Inspiration
from the 
Holy Land
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"

March 7th  2013 -Volume 3, Issue 22 –25th of Adar 5773
Parshas Va'Yakhel/ Pikudei/ Chodesh
Reflections of Beauty

This is not my typical Rabbi Schwartz "Happy Anniversary" annual E-mail. Not just because this Shabbos is 19 years since I became the fortunate and blessed husband of my still beautiful bride and every 19 years on the Jewish calendar the Hebrew and English date fall out on the same day ( it's that whole solar/lunar calendar thing). Although that is certainly cause enough to celebrate. This past week in advance of this anniversary, Hashem sent me a reminder of something that unfortunately I forget too often.

This past Purim, my favorite Rebbetzin went into the hospital for what was meant to be fairly standard procedure, which turned into a scary few hours until the doctors were able to get everything under control again. I suddenly went from Purim to Yom Ki'Purim in a few short moments. My mind raced and 19 years of marriage past before my eyes; the good, the better and the best and all those times in between. All the things I should've said (and shouldn't have), the flowers I should've bought more of and the vacations and "quality times" we had always spoken about and haven't yet completed going on (there are still a few States we haven't visited or lived in). But perhaps the most terrifying and sadly eye-opening epiphany of that long night was how incomplete I would feel without her God-forbid… As much as I always prided myself as being blessed with having been able to accomplish so much, it finally hit me like a ton of bricks how little I could do and had been able to do without her by my side. I felt lost and dis-oriented. It was perhaps the scariest moment of my life. When her eyes opened up again and she smiled again at me, it was like I was under that chupah once again. I had my wife back, I re-found myself.

This week we conclude the 2nd book of the Torah Shemos; the book of Exile and Redemption. In the Torah's reiteration in its accounting of the building of the Tabernacle/Mishkan it describes the unique basin that stood in the courtyard which was used to wash and purify oneself with before bringing sacrifices in the Temple and from where water was taken to restore peace between a husband and wife in cases of suspected infidelity. What makes this vessel unique is the donors and the source of the contributions. The verse tells us that the Kiyor/Laver or basin was made from the mirrors of the women. Rashi in one of the few and most elaborate comments on these Parshiyot quotes the following medrash

"The daughters of Israel had mirrors which they looked at while they adorned themselves, but they did not hesitate to give them as voluntary offering for the Sanctuary. But Moses had contempt for them, because they were made for the Evil Urge. The Holy One blessed be He told him: Accept them, for they are more pleasing to me than anything else, for by their means the women built up numerous hosts in Egypt. When their husbands were weary from crushing labor, they would go and bring them food and drink and feed them. And they would take the mirrors, and each one would see herself with her husband in the mirror, and would seduce them with their words, saying “Ani Na'eh Mimcha-I am prettier than you.” And thus they would bring their husbands to desire them, and they would couple with them, and become pregnant, and bear them children. As is said, “under the apple tree I aroused you” (Song of Songs 8:5)".

What a strange and unique gift. What makes this even more interesting is that the Kiyor/basin was not even one official vessels that was used for a service in the Temple. In fact there were times in the Temple itself they would just pour water on the Kohen. The basin rather was used as a preparatory vessel to give one the proper purity and included in that, the right frame of mind to enter the Tabernacle. And it seems to all start with those mirrors that were used back in Egypt to seduce their men with. One last added point of interest is that the Mishkan we are told was meant to be a place of atonement that followed the debacle of the golden calf. The women, our sages tell us did not participate in that sin, and yet it is their donation for this seemingly non-essential fixture that Hashem calls more dear then even the ark, the menorah or the sacrificial altar. What is so special about these mirrors?

The answer can perhaps be found in the strange words of seduction that the women used. They would hold them in front of their husbands so that both of them can be seen at the same time and then they would say "I am more beautiful than you". Now perhaps I am a little self-conscious and need more ego-stroking than others, but frankly those do not seem to be words that would necessarily motivate me. What ever happened to you're so handsome? The beard and mustache are really amazing! If you ask me most guys would respond more to being shown that they are more beautiful than being told by their wives that we're not. We know that they are more beautiful than us it's pretty much (excuse the pun) one of the reasons we married them and not our best friends from yeshiva.

 Yet if one looks deeper into Rashi perhaps the words can be translated differently. The word Ani  Na'eh Mimcha- can also be read as I am beautiful from you- because of you. It is you, my husband that makes me feel and appear beautiful. Look at the two of us together in this mirror. Our inner beauty that radiates in our reflection is when we are joined and when each of us sees one another, the two of us together rather than just ourselves in that mirror. When I see myself- I see that beauty you gave to me and when you see yourself you should see the same.

The women donated these mirrors for their husbands who had sinned at the golden calf- which the Medrash describes was like a bride who strays right after their wedding chupah with Hashem at Mt. Sinai when we received the Torah. They were given in order that they see those mirrors and remember to reflect on the sanctity of our special relationship. We sinned because we were only seeing ourselves. We felt that we had to create a new leader to replace Moshe. We were not worthy enough to come close to Hashem ourselves. We needed something in between. It was all on us. The mirrors remind us that when we come to the Tabernacle to serve Hashem, that we need not worry or carry the burden-just as our holy wives have given us the strength and desire to understand- "His beauty comes from us". Hashem so appropriately tells Moshe- This is the dearest of all the vessels; more than the all the service, sacrifices and gold of the temple that they will do for me. This knowledge is the foundation… the living water… that they prepare themselves with and see their reflection and mine in there as well telling them "My beauty comes from you". He is only great when we know how special we are to him. We can only become our greatest and become the nation we were meant to become when we know that our beauty as well comes only from Him.

An anniversary is a time of reflection. One looks in the mirror (if you're brave enough) after 19 years and you think about who and what you have become…what you still want to do. As I look back at my mirror this year, more than ever, I see the reflection of my wife (who’s resting up at her mother's house now…while I watch the kids… don't worry they're sleeping…happy anniversary dear) and recognize that all that I have and the blessing and beauty is from her. I also see in that mirror the love of Hashem. Our sages tell us that when there is peace in a home it is a sign that the shechina/heavenly presence is there as well. As I look at my beautiful children, the special gifts Hashem has granted the two of us, I see the Divine in the reflection of their faces…which are the reflection of the two of us…which is a reflection of our loving Father. They are our holy mirrors; the place where we can see the beauty that has come from their three partners.

This week as we welcome the new month of Nissan, the month when we were chosen as the beloved of Hashem, we prepare to celebrate our national anniversary on Pesach. As we clean and scrub and remove all of that personal self created ego that is represented by the chametz that we cleanse ourselves from, it is also important to take a break and appreciate that inner beauty that Hashem has endowed in each of us. May this anniversary month once again turn into a redemption month and may we once again soon be able to gaze into those loving mirrors of holiness in our temple rebuilt.
 Have a perfectly magnificent Shabbos
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz


 (answer below)
Among the following Nabatean cities, which of the following is the most Eastern most?
 (a) Memphis (Mamshit)
(b) Mo'ah                                                                                                                           
(c) Avdat
(d) Shivta

Tel Shilo- After reading all of these Parshiyot of the Tabernacle a trip to the ancient city of Shilo in the hills of the Shomron (north of Beth-El) and the tribe of Ephraim is just the place to visit. The ancient city the home of the mishkan for 369 years can be visited today and one can see the bedrock carved out where many archeologists suggest the mishkan rested as many sacrificial bones from that period were found there. Climbing to the top of the tel one can look out and read the story of Eli Hakohein who was sitting here when he was told that the ark and his children were lost in battle and who fell and died from the shock. This is the place as well where the prophet Shmuel was raised and the famous prayer of his mother Chana was first said. There is a movie that can be seen here as well ancient synagogues (and byzantine churches-which is a sign that they also had  a tradition this was a sacred spot). A short hop over to the modern city of Shilo is worthwhile as well as one can see the truly beautiful synagogue that is designed in the shape of the mishkan with incredible artistic symbolism to remember our holy Tabernacle as well.

Two simpletons from the city of chelm are walking down the street when one of them looks down and finds a mirror.

He picks it up, looks into it, and says, “WOW! I know this person. I’ve seen this person somewhere before…”

The other chelmite takes the mirror, looks into it, and says, “Duh, of course you have. That’s me!”
Answer is B- Mo'ah is the eastern most of the nabatean sites in Israel. The other three cities mentioned have been recognized by UNESCO as world heritage sites being of significance as major cities along the spice trail that was run by these desert nomads from Africa to the coast of Gaza and out to the world from the first century BC until the the 2nd CE. Mo'ah a lesser site located on the modern day southeastern border of Israel was a Ch'an or inn where those who traveled throughout the desert could find , water and food.

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