The God Squad: The mirrored washbasin
Every year during the Jewish High Holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur I send out to you an edited version of my sermon for my congregation, Temple Beth Torah. Edited means I take out most of the jokes. This year, I taped my sermon in advance and it was included in our synagogue’s internet-aided remote prayer services. My friend, Rabbi Steve Leder in Los Angeles, calls it, “artificial insermonation.” May this New Year find us finally together for real.
For those of you who want to hear Rabbi Gellman preach this sermon, here is the link.
The Mirrored Washbasin
By Marc Gellman
This year’s sermon is the third in a three-year cycle of sermons about the klei kodesh, the unique and holy objects that were in the Temple in Jerusalem. Two years ago, I spoke about the menorah — the golden seven-branched swiveling candelabrum. Last year, I spoke to you about the aron hakodesh — the golden ark that held the Tablets of Law, a jar of manna and Aaron’s flowering staff. This year, I will describe for you the spiritual significance of a washbasin made of mirrors — the kior.
We first read of the mirrored washbasin in Exodus 30:17-21,
"Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying: You shall also make a washbasin of bronze, with its base also of bronze, for washing. You shall put it between the tabernacle of meeting and the altar. And you shall put water in it, for Aaron and his sons shall wash their hands and their feet in water from it.”
We learn about the origins of these mirrors in a rabbinic midrash, Tanhuma-Yelamdenu:
You find that when Israel was in harsh labor in Egypt, Pharaoh decreed against them that they should not sleep at home nor have relations with their wives. Said Rabbi Shimon bar Chalafta, what did the daughters of Israel do? They would go down to draw water from the river and God would prepare for them little fish in their buckets, and they would sell some of them, and cook some of them, and buy wine with the proceeds, and go to the field and feed their husbands. ... And when they had eaten and drunk, the women would take the mirrors and look into them with their husbands, and she would say, "I am more beautiful than you," and he would say, 'I am more beautiful than you." And as a result, they would accustom themselves to desire, and they were fruitful and multiplied, and God took note of them immediately.”