One of the most interesting components of the desert Mishkan/Tabernacle was the hand-and-foot wash basin made out of the “mirrors of legions”. These were mirrors donated by the women of Israel towards the Mishkan and significant because, used to beautify our mothers, they played a part in the romantic process whereby even the downtrodden and hopeless slaves, with no vision for the future, participated in the building of families and “legions” of Jewish continuity. Per Rashi citing the Medrash however, it wasn’t just that our female ancestors made themselves beautiful by use of the mirrors. Here is how it worked:
Wifey would schlep her slavery-worn husband to the mirrors, and staring at their images together, she would say: “look how much better looking Iam!” And apparently through this “Neg” (negative insult intended to arouse jealousy/admiration) husband would be filled with unbridled passion-and our future was created.
My dear women friends: is this the way to inspire desire? Insult your man into attraction? And men: is this what we need to feel wanted by our soul? A few well placed put-downs about our miserable looks? I can’t imagine that’s the Torah way- any way, to build true attraction and intimacy.
But here is where Hebrew helps. The wording of the “insult ” described in Rashi is “Ani Naah Mimcha”-typically translated as “I am better looking than you”. But here is what it can also mean: “I am beautiful FROM you”.
How about we understand this Rashi not as telling us how the womeninsulted their husbands into “duty”, but rather how our righteous mothers shared with our ancient papas the ultimate compliment: ” I’m gorgeous- but it all comes from you“. Youmake me beautiful, special. You bring out the best in me”. Well, that kind of “insult” will always work, won’t it? Indeed, the best way we can be special is to know how much we give to and inspire others, that we make a difference way beyond ourselves. We are kings and queens -capable of impacting generations, nay “legions”.
Our very Parasha of Vayikra hints at this I believe when, in describing our sacrificial donation, the Torah says: “Adam KI Yakriv Mikem”. The standard translation is: “When one of you bring an offering…”. But armed with our new Hebrew, let’s translate it as, “When you choose to come closer” (“Adam Ki Yakriv”), it should be “Mikem” -your greatest gift, and surest way to achieve oneness, is to give something of “yourself”, to share YOU!
Get out your mirrors friends. Good Shabbos!