Friday, March 13, 2015

Vayakhel-Pekudei: With Mirrors

This week’s parsha[s] detail how the mishkan was built through bnei yisrael basically collecting and throwing in everything but the kitchen sink in a national giving drive, to the point that Moshe had to tell them to stop.

But there was one gift the G-d wouldn’t allow him to give back.

As Rashi details on 38:8: “…they would take the mirrors…each one would view herself with her husband in the mirror, and entice him…”

Then the women brought these mirrors to Moshe for use in the Mishkan.  Moshe was reluctant to use anything with such an obvious “ta’aroves hayetzer”, but G-d ordered him to accept the gift: “"Accept them!  For they are more dear to Me than anything else!"

So what made G-d take this, when everything else He was getting was leading Him to say, as it were [cf. Ex.36:6]: “Space, please”?

One idea is that the general giving had become unrestrained and unfocused.  It has been pointed out by numerous commentaries that the giving to the mishkan was supposed to be an atonement for the giving of the god and jewelry that ended up making the Egel; the giving was still impulsive and needed to be restrained.

In the case of the mirrors, this was not so.  It was very specific [and, ironically enough, it became the kiyor—for the lack of a better term, the “kitchen sink”.]  It also conjured up a very poignant moment for G-d: the women insuring the perpetuity of klal yisrael in the face of the Pharaonic genocidal policy.

But there’s also a common thread in their reaction to that policy and their employment of the mirrors in the first place: both were grassroots initiatives that ran counter to the more established way of thinking by the pre-eminent religious authorities of their time to the point that the initiatives changed the minds of said authorities with G-d blessing.

The employment of the mirrors ran counter to the initial thinking of the “gadol” of the time—Amram, who[as detailed in TB Sotah 12b] in reaction to the Pharaonic decree divorced Yocheved with the consequence that ALL the men divorced their wives…until his own daughter Miriam convinced him that what he was doing was worse, whereupon he remarries Yocheved, and ALL bnei yisrael follow.   The mirrors were an iconic representation of the original “kol korei” being overturned.  They then became the iconic representation of another kol korei being overruled, this time by G-d himself.

In recent years, one grassroots initiative that started really as a Jewish communal initiative and garnered rabbinic support only later was the system of services to combat domestic violence.   As recently as twenty years ago the catchphrases thrown at suffering spouses was “go back for the children/shalom bayis”; “stay for the children”.  That would be currently unthinkable, thankfully; the culture HAS changed.  But now a new initiative is needed, even if [or maybe even because] the halachic groundwork [like the foundations of the mishkan] has been laid.

That’s the pre-nup.

I’ve written elsewhere about why the pre-nup is both actually romantic AND more like the kesuva than some people want to admit publicly.  It may be telling that the opposition to the pre-nup such as it is seems to be way more passive than active; you don’t hear anyone screaming “This is assur!!” [because for once they know better]; you get platitudes like one being "entitle to embrace the presuptual approach if one chooses...but [] recognize that there are others who, for entirely defensible reasons, choose otherwise." As the lack of a salient reason for opposition has now been betrayed by the pre-nups’ detractors,  there really is no longer anything defensible about not making it part  and parcel of everyone wedding, even to the point that it becomes almost if not as de rigeur as the kesuva and tanaim.  

The way to do that is first for the community to stop employing mesadrei kiddushin at wedding who won't officiate with one.  At some point when the officiators get the hint, they'll stop performing chuppah without one, and eventually it will come around to the point where they will insist that the families and parties get one.   

The culture needs to change.  It's happened before and it can [and should] happen again.

And it won't have to be done with mirrors.

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