[with Simcha Baer]
As we have written before, the holiness of building the Mishkan was provided by married couples, volunteering their personal, even intimate jewelry of bracelets, nose-rings, rings, and body ornaments. These couples, by sharing their gold, were in effect sharing their personal connections to the shechinah, to the holiness they had nurtured in their personal relationships with each other. The link between the marriage of man and woman and that between Hashem and mankind was explicit.
But there is another vessel in the Mishkan and Beis Hamikdash that renewed the connection between these two ideas each and every day. The “kiyor” or laver, was made of shiny bronze, and Shmos 38:8 says “And he made the basin of bronze, and its pedestal of bronze, from the mirrors of the women [who bore those] who assembled at the door of the Tent of Meeting.”
The clear meaning of the verse is that the laver was made from mirrors used by women in Egypt to incite desire in their husbands. How on earth can such an object be present in the Mishkan, let alone be a critical feature?
While we may not teach this in grade schools, there is actually nothing to be defensive about. Love between man and woman is holy – it is the essential building block of society, and it allows for the creation and nurturing of children.
To really get a sense of this, imagine the laver in use. The Cohen must wash their hands and feet in it before they approach further to serve Hashem. As they are washing themselves, they see their reflections in the highly polished metal, the very same bronze that Jewish women had used to make themselves attractive to their husbands, to strengthen and grow their relationship. And then, having prepared by washing his hands and feet, the Cohen goes into the Beis Hamikdash and does the very same thing – strengthen and grow the relationship between mankind and Hashem.
Which comes first? Marital love does. It is the preparatory step for service to Hashem, and the laver is the only vessel in the Beis Hamikdash that has its own base, that can stand by itself. Marital love inspires and reinforces our service to Hashem.