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G-d spoke to Moses, saying: 'You shall make a copper laver… for washing. You shall place it between the Tent of Meeting and the altar, and put water in it'. (30:17-19)
The instruction to construct the copper laver occurs as almost a postscript. It is the last artifact described for the Tabernacle, and the only one that gets its first mention as late as in this Parasha. It does not parallel the details of the actual construction recounted in the next Parasha. There, it placed in its logical order - together with the other artifacts - the ark, table, candelabrum, inner altar, and outer altar.
In addition, the laver is unusual as it is the only artifact whose dimensions are not given. No circumference, height, or mention of whether it had taps, and if so - how many. And finally it is the only item to be introduced with: 'G-d said to Moses saying', rather than the conventional 'You shall make…' What special characteristics had the laver to merit exclusive treatment?
An insight to the above may be implied comes from a comment by Rashi on the construction of the laver in the next Parasha.
The text there states that he made the laver 'from the mirrors of the legions who massed at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting' (38:8). Rashi, quoting the Midrash (Tanhuma: Pekudei 9) brings the tradition that the laver was made from the very brightly polished sheets of copper that in those days the women used as mirrors. When the call went out for contributions for the Tabernacle, the women brought their personal copper mirrors. Moses was reluctant to accept them for such a holy purpose, as they had been used to incite lust. G-d told Moses that he was wrong, because it was those very mirrors that were responsible for the survival of the Israelite People. For in Egypt, their husbands had come home exhausted after yet another day of backbreaking labor, and their wives had used their mirrors to help entice them to continue normal family life. Thus it was those very mirrors that were instrumental in the birth of generations of Israelite children during the years of slavery in Egypt.
To that end, Ibn Ezra explains that the reason the Torah does not give a specific size for the laver is that every single mirror had to go into the laver - no matter what size it would become. For that reason, the size (and detailed form) of the laver was up to Moses - according to contributions…
All other contributions were refused when their supply exceeded the Tabernacle demand (36:5-6). Contributors would understand that reality, and not take it personally. The women were different. Each mirror connected with a childbirth - the very core of the mother's life. Why should one mirror be accepted and another refused? 'Is not my child also good enough to be included in the Tabernacle?'
Thus the Torah balances observance and commandments on one hand with sensitivity to human nature and the deepest emotional feelings on the other.
Written by Jacob Solomon. Tel 02 673 7998. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org for any points you wish to raise and/or to join those that receive this Parasha sheet every week.
Parashiot from the First, Second, and Third Series may be viewed on the Shema Yisrael web-site: http://www.shemayisrael.co.il/parsha/solomon/archives/archives.htm
Also by Jacob Solomon:
This article is provided as part of Shema Yisrael Torah Network
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