By Rabbi Moshe Mayerfeld
In a Recent debate about transparency in the charitable sector, Sir Stephen Bubb, head of the charity chief executives’ body Acevo maintained a radical view that it is inappropriate for charities to declare information such as chief executive pay and political affiliations in their annual accounts.
Understandably, this is a highly contentious issue. Jewish tradition has always seemed to favour an openness when dealing with public funds.
During the process of the building of the tabernacle, Moshe keeps all the donations in the public eye and lists them accordingly; gold, silver, copper, all in group listings.
Then the verse tells us about the copper laver. This was the washing station that the cohen used before he did any service in the Temple.
The Torah informs us that it was made from copper mirrors that were donated by the women in the dessert.
Listed separately, they seem to be left behind. Why were these mirrors not included with the rest of the copper vessels?
Often it is perceived mistakenly that in order to be ‘holy’, one must refrain. To take an oath of poverty, silence or abstinence.
The Jewish view is to embrace the physical world and use it for the positive.
This world is made up of essentially neutral physical things and it is our job to channel them and raise them to greatness. Money, education, power are neither good nor bad.
The question is how we use them.
The power of speech can create the terror of Hitler or the freedom of Martin Luther King Jr. When these mirrors first came to Moshe, he left them aside.
He was reluctant to accept them as part of the building of the holy temple. Moshe felt that the mirrors had been used for mundane matters – physicality, vanity and even lust.
God teaches Moshe a valuable lesson. These mirrors were neutral. In fact, the mirrors were then used to ensure normal family life in Egypt continued despite the treacherous conditions of slavery.
These items were elevated to ensure Jewish survival.
They weren’t even melted down like the other precious metals were before they were reshaped. The mirrors remained intact to give us a chance to reflect.
The were there for the Jews to look at and see a world of opportunity.
They would then learn how engage, enjoy and use properly.
The challenge is to provide the correct framework for our lives and give it the right parameters.
We use these forgotten items as instructions for living and maximising our interactions with this world.