Friday, February 21, 2014

Before You Wash Your Hands - Look In The Mirror

Parshat Vayakhel describes the construction of the Mishkan by the Jewish People. Towards the end of the parsha, we read about the construction of the Kiyor, the laver from which the Kohanim would wash their hands and feet in preparation for their service in the Tabernacle. The Torah tells us that Betzalel “made the laver of copper and its base from copper, from the mirrors of the legions…”

Rashi explains that the laver was constructed entirely out of shined copper that was used by Jewish women as mirrors. The women took the lead in donating to the Mishkan cause and many copper mirrors were donated. Rashi explains that at first Moshe was heisitant to accept donations of tools of vanity for the Mishkan. However God informed Moshe that these women were righteous and they utilized these mirrors for noble purposes.

I believe that the use of mirrors for the kiyor contains an additional lesson. The kiyor was used to prepare oneself for public service. Before we contribute to society – we need to prepare ourselves. On the one hand we prepare by “purifying”- washing our hands and ensuring that our motivations are pure. But more fundamentally we need to first start by looking at a mirror – and in a mirror. When we catch our reflection in the mirror we should ask ourselves, “I am engaging in public service because I am unhappy with the current state of affairs in the world around me. What about my own personal current state of affairs? Am I satisfied with the person I am today, or are there things I want to improve on, and if so- how will I go about doing so?

Looking outward is important but the lesson of the kiyor is the critical importance of also looking into a mirror at times, and at ourselves.

Birthdays are perfect opportunities for such reflection in the mirror. In retrospect, perhaps the inspiration for this week's post is partly due to the fact that today my Hebrew birthday (the first of 2)

Friday, February 14, 2014

Life Does Not Always Operate According To My Schedule

While the underlying cause of the sin of the golden calf is left to conjecture, the immediate cause is described in the Torah: “The people saw that Moshe was delayed in coming down from Mount Sinai.” The word used here for delayed, “boshesh” is an unusual one and used to learn a number of lessons. One suggestion is that Boshesh is a contraction of the words “ba shesh” ie that Moshe told the people that he would be back at noon and the people panicked when he was late by their calculations. Another suggestion is that Boshesh is related to the Hebrew word busha which means shame. The source of the people’s concern stemmed from their lack of confidence in themselves and their worthiness for Moshe’s leadership and God’s protection.

 I think an important lesson for us to learn from the sin of the golden calf is that life does not always occur based on our schedule. Just because the people wanted/ needed/ expected Moshe to return at a certain time does not mean that it has to be. Humans are by nature self-centered and we easily forget that the world does not revolve around our time frames. The golden calf episode should serve as a reminder for us to work on our humility and our perspective to navigate and thrive during those times in life when things don’t happen according to our time table.