The Jewish people were eager to donate. The project, the building of the Tabernacle in the desert, was a symbol that, despite the pain of betrayal with the Golden Calf, the relationship had been restored and strengthened. G‑d desired to dwell in the midst of the Jewish camp.
The people donated There was one item Moses refused to acceptenthusiastically: bracelets; earrings; rings; blue, purple and crimson wool; linen; goat hair; red-dyed ram skins; tachash skins; silver and copper were some of the items that were gifted.
There was, however, one item that Moses refused to accept.
The Torah describes that the women contributed even more than the men. They even brought their mirrors to be used in the sanctuary. But Moses refused to accept the mirrors. A mirror, he argued, is the antithesis of the sanctuary. A mirror is used to adorn the externality of the person; it intensifies a person’s pride and narcissism. A mirror is pure vanity and superficiality, a tool for self-worship. It has no place in the service of G‑d.
Moses saw the mirror as an enemy. Here was a tool designed to, at best, focus attention on the self rather than on the Divine, and at worst, a tool to create destructive lust and seduction.
Moses sought to create a transparent “window”; he sought to teach people how to view the world as a window through which one can see the awesome power of the Creator. The mirror, blocking the light and reflecting the vision back to the viewer, was the polar opposite of everything Moses stood for.
The Midrash describes how G‑d explained to Moses that not only should the mirrors be accepted, but indeed they were more precious than all the other gifts. For it is precisely the mirror that represents the purpose of creating the sanctuary, and more broadly, the purpose of creation itself.
G‑d explained to Moses that the mirror could be just as holy as it could be destructive. Desire and temptation could be, not ego-driven, but rather an expression of intense holiness. As Rashi explains:
Even these [mirrors] they did not hold back from bringing as a contribution toward the Mishkan, but Moses rejected them because they were made for temptation [i.e., to inspire lustful thoughts]. The Holy One, blessed is He, said to him, “Accept [them], for these are more precious to Me than anything because through them the women set up many legions [i.e., through the children they gave birth to] in Egypt.” When their husbands were weary from back-breaking labor, they [the women] would go and bring them food and drink and give them to eat. Then they [the women] would take the mirrors and each one would see herself with her husband in the mirror, and she would seduce him with words, saying, “I am more beautiful than you.” And in this way they aroused their husbands desire and would copulate with them, conceiving and giving birth.
Every creation on this earth has a soul, an energy, which can be used for both good or evil. Ironically, the more potential this energy has for good, the more destructive it can be. The reverse is just as true: the more destructive the force, the deeper the goodness and enlightenment can be when it is transformed or channeled.
The mirror captures a deep truth. When glass is covered with a layer of silver that obstructs the transparency, the result is more profound.Moses preferred clarity of vision Looking at a mirror, while one cannot see forward, one is able to see behind. One will see the unexpected.
The mirror does not completely obstruct the light, as do other objects. Instead, it reflects the light that shines upon it. It symbolizes how the creation itself can reflect and express the Divine light.
Moses preferred clarity of vision. He was drawn to transparency, to a place where holiness is obvious. G‑d explained that the purpose of the Tabernacle, which reflects the purpose of the creation of the world, was to be mirror-like, to see the holiness where it is least expected, to understand that desire can be an expression of transcendence and spirituality. The mirror reminds us that in order to experience the true profundity of the infinite G‑d, one should look not directly upward to the transparent heavens, but rather one should look down here on earth, where the concealment of the material creates a deeper reflection of the oneness of G‑d.
by Menachem Feldman