This issue is sponsored anonymously
Vol. 23 No. 22
Those Righteous Women
"And he manufactured the copper basin and its copper stand, using the mirrors of the women who congregated at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting" (38:8).
Although a large amount of copper was donated for the construction of the Mishkan, the only vessel for which it was designated that was constructed entirely of copper was the large copper Mizbe'ach on which all the Korbanos were sacrificed, together with its accessories - bowls, pans large forks, etc. Much of the donated copper went into the posts and sockets of the Chatzer and other of its accessories.
There is one other vessel that comprised exclusively copper - the basin and its stand, but differs from all the above, inasmuch as it was not made from the copper donated by the general public - indeed, it is not mentioned together with the things that were.
The copper basin, from which the Kohanim would wash hands and feet each morning, were made of the copper that was donated by the women who flocked to the Mishkan with their mirrors, which they dedicated towards the construction of the Mishkan. Inspired by the thought of a closer proximity to the Shechinah, they decided to elevate the mirrors by putting them to a more spiritual use.
Initially, Moshe was shocked and refused to accept them, due to their mundane and even sinful use, until G-d ordered him to accept them, based on the fact that those very mirrors had been used in Egypt to 'build' K'lal Yisrael. The men would return each night, tired and weak from a long day of back-breaking work. And it was then that the women would serve their husbands food and drink, before sitting with them under the apple-tree and producing their mirrors. They would then gently coax them. 'See', they would say, as they held the mirrors in front of them both, 'I am more beautiful than you!' In this way they would arouse their interest in them, enabling the nation to grow and flourish. That is how they foiled the Egyptians' plans to work the men to the bone and render them impotent. And G-d (kevayachol) took His cue from the righteous women and they gave birth to sextuplets.
That is why G-d commanded Moshe to accept the mirrors, and 'Midah ke'Neged Midah', to use them to manufacture a Vessel that would unite husband and wife and maintain Sholom bayis between them, just as they had originally done in Egypt. This is when the water of the Kiyor was given to a Sotah to drink. Knowing what was in store for her if she had indeed committed adultery, it is assumed that most women did not go beyond the sin of seclusion with another man, but had stopped short of committing adultery. If that was the case, she would return to her husband and enjoy a new and improved relationship with him.
'Accept these mirrors', G-d commanded Moshe, 'as they are more precious to Me than all the other donations!'
And it was on the merit of deeds such as these that the women of that generation earned for themselves the title 'Tzidkoniyos'. Moreover, as Chazal state - 'It was on the merit of the righteous women that Yisrael left Egypt'. And the copper basin, a source of purity, would serve as a monument to their righteousness.
* * *
"When you take a census of the B'nei Yisrael according to their numbers, every man shall give an atonement for his soul when counting them, so that there will not be a plague when counting them" (30:12)
The reason that we read Parshas Shekalim immediately before Purim, the commentaries explain, is to commemorate the half-Shekel that they would give then commencing on Rosh Chodesh Adar. The reason for this Mitzvah is to preempt the 10,000 kikar (1 kikar = 3000 Shekalim) that Haman offered Achashverosh for the Jewish people, and render useless any adverse effect that that offer may otherwise have had against Yisrael.
This can be understood in two ways: It may be that the communal participation outweighs the effort of one individual. Consequently, the sum of money collected by the whole of Yisrael negates Haman's donation.
Or perhaps it was the fact that a donation that is motivated by love is preferable to one that is based on hatred - as the Pasuk says in Mishlei (16:17) "A meal of vegetables where there is love, is preferable to a fattened ox where there is hatred".
The same idea is expressed in the Gemara in Megilah (16a) which relates how Haman himself told Mordechai (with reference to the fistful of flour that one takes from a Korban Minchah - that Mordechai had been learning immediately prior to Haman's downfall) 'Along came your fistful of flour and pushed away my 10,000 kikar of silver!'
Either way, the modest half-Shekel donated by every Jewish man rendered Haman's gigantic gift useless for all time.
Tosfos on the Gemara that we just quoted explains that the 10,000 kikar of Haman was equivalent to the sum total of the half-Shekalim which the six hundred thousand Jews who left Egypt donated. At first sight however, this equation seems flawed, since the sum total of six hundred thousand half-Shekalim is three hundred thousand Shekalim, which equals one hundred kikar (one hundredth of the amount that Haman offered Achashverosh).
The commentaries offer a number of answers to this question (See for example, the Hagahos ha'Bach & the Hagahos ve'Tziyunim on the page).
Perhaps the most popular answer given by a number of commentaries is based on a word in Tosfos' final phrase 'And he (Haman) said that he would give their full redemption'. The important word is 'complete', which they explain as follows: The value of a man between the ages of twenty and sixty (the age-group which is obligated to pay the half-shekel), as laid out in the Parshah of Erchin, is fifty Shekalim. Considering that the Mishkan was coming to atone for the sin of the Golden Calf (Rashi), each person ought therefore to have given his full value - a hundred Shekel, in which the total figure would have amounted to 10,000 Shekalim (or one hundred Kikar).
And it is due to G-d's Midas ha'Rachamim that He took compassion on his people and accepted only a hundredth of each person's value (the equivalent fraction of the smallest tithe - the tenth that a Levi took from his Ma'aser to give to the Kohen).
That is why Tosfos informs us that Haman did not make do with a hundredth. He offered Achashverosh Yisrael's full redemption.
* * *