April 15, 2024
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Vayakhel: Bringing Down Hashem’s Presence

In the early ‘80s, my rosh yeshiva from Yeshiva Ner Yaakov, Rabbi Yehoshua Liff, was a newly married young man learning in the Mir Yeshiva. He was one of the very few who owned a car in Eretz Yisrael in those days. He took advantage of this luxury to give rides to many roshei yeshiva and leading rabbis. Rav Chaim Shmulevitz, Rav Beinish Finkel, Rav Gifter, Rav Elyashiv and many other leading luminaries of the Jewish world graced his front seat!

One day, he was startled by people on the sidewalk pointing at his car, screaming, “Your car is on fire!” Rabbi Liff quickly pulled over and exited the car. When the firemen put out the fire, the car looked terrible, but the front passenger seat was unscathed. When Rav Beinish Finkel (Mir rosh yeshiva) heard the story, he told Rabbi Liff, “It’s no wonder that seat was untouched. That’s where many leading rabbis sat when you gave them rides. In fact, people considered your car as the official Mir vehicle!” Miraculously, an auto shop was able to repair Rabbi Liff’s car, and he once again was able to continue using it for chesed.

This story epitomizes the concept of the Mishkan and specifically the Kiyor, the copper wash basin in the Mishkan.

The Torah is very specific on the size and dimension of each of the various utensils in the Beis Hamikdash. Yet the Torah does not specify any dimensions for the Kiyor, the wash basin mentioned in this parsha. The Ibn Ezra explains that the Kiyor was fashioned from the mirrors donated by the women. Indeed, there was no measurement, as Hashem wanted to include every mirror donated. Therefore, the size of the Kiyor would be as large as all the mirrors donated. Every single mirror was used!

Rav Hirsch adds an additional property of the Kiyor that was different from the other vessels in the Mishkan. The other vessels contained gold, silver and raw materials that were donated and then melted down and formed into the vessel. However, in the case of the Kiyor, the actual mirrors donated were all joined together to form the Kiyor.

So…why was the Kiyor different from other utensils and what was so special about these mirrors that Hashem wanted every mirror to be used in its original state?

Rashi tells us Moshe at first did not want to accept the mirrors since they were used by women to make themselves attractive and can also be used for inappropriate reasons. However, Hashem told Moshe that the women in fact had the proper intentions. The women used the mirrors in Egypt to apply makeup and look attractive for their husbands when they came home from their exhaustive labor. They encouraged their husbands, who felt there was no future for the Jews, and convinced them to want to have additional children.

These mirrors therefore assumed a very high place in the Mishkan. Every mirror was used in its original form, teaching us the incredible ability we have to transform and utilize our possessions for higher purposes.

The construction of the Mishkan was quite extraordinary. Think of it: man was creating a physical structure that could house the presence of Hashem! Rav Hirsch notes this was similar to Creation. Just as Hashem created the world from nothing (“ex nihilo”), so too we created a spiritual domain from lowly physical matter. And the ultimate detail was the mirrors. By their holy use and intentions they gained a standing so elevated that each one needed to be used in its original state.

The Kiyor was the wash basin the Kohanim used every time before they engaged in any service in the Mishkan. Every time a kohen used the Kiyor it reminded him of the holy women of klal Yisrael who transformed physicality into pure holiness. This reinforced to the kohanim that using physical items in the Mishkan for holy purposes brings Hashem’s presence into the Mishkan and beyond.

Hashem gifts and entrusts us with many material possessions. We have the ability and duty to use simple physical items in a way that creates a resting place for Hashem. A car that is used to give a ride or to deliver an item for someone transforms the car into a holy place. Hosting guests for meals and sleeping accommodations transforms our homes into an abode that contains Hashem’s presence.

Let’s heed the message of the Mishkan, the mirrors…and Rabbi Liff’s use of his car, to help bring Hashem’s presence into our world!

By Rabbi Baruch Bodenheim


Rabbi Baruch Bodenheim is the associate rosh yeshiva of Passaic Torah Institute (PTI)/Yeshiva Ner Boruch. PTI has attracted people from all over northern New Jersey, including Teaneck, Bergenfield, Paramus, Rockaway and Fair Lawn. He initiated and continues to lead a multi-level Gemara learning program. Recently he has spread out beyond PTI to begin a weekly beis midrash program with in-depth chavrusa learning in Livingston and Springfield. This year he joined Heichal Hatorah in Teaneck as a Gemara iyun rebbe. His email is [email protected].

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