Ancient Selfies: Vaykhel-Pekudei 5775 by Cantor Lipp

Wed, 03/18/2015 - 10:36am -- lcanfield

The last third of the book of Exodus, with the exception of the Golden Calf, is almost exclusively concerned with the building of the Tabernacle in the desert, the mobile precursor to Solomon's Temple in Jerusalem.

In the midst of repeating all the instructions from two weeks ago, our combined portion tomorrow relates that in order to make the laver, the washing stand for the priests who would perform the sacrifices, the women brought their bronze mirrors to be refashioned.

According to an ancient tradition, Moses objected to this reuse of objects of vanity for the sacred space. He thought the washing stands should be made of donated bronze without the taint of women primping themselves.

God begged to differ. God remembered that when the Israelites were in slavery, the women would go out to the men working arduously in the sun, and bring their mirrors with them. They would force the men to take a break and look in the mirrors with them and say, "I'm more beautiful than you!" One thing would lead to another and God decided that mirrors used in fulfilling the first commandment of the Torah, be fruitful and multiply, was not only okay but necessary.

Call them ancient selfies.

Another interpretation of the verse suggests that priests must look at themselves as they are washing both before and after the sacrifices. As they atone for other’s sins, they need to be subliminally reminded of their own.

We are all prone to confirmation bias and self- justification whereas we are much more likely to see the faults in others. It's how we're built. One brain scientist suggested that what we call 'consciousness' is primarily our own personal PR firm operating between our ears.

In the film The 7% Solution Sherlock Holmes goes to Sigmund Freud, ultimately to deal with his cocaine addiction. At their first meeting, Holmes ferrets out virtually every detail about the father of psychology except for his name with a good deal of critical accusation in the mix.

Freud, played by Alan Arkin, says to Holmes, and I paraphrase: If you were only able to aim that sharp mind into a mirror, on yourself, we might get somewhere.

As these interpretations suggest, the act of worship should allow for both honest self reflection and a joyous reminder that we are not alone in the world.

Shabbat Shalom.

David Lipp