Call a Copper: Vayakhel-Pekudei 2018

by Adam J. Rosenbaum

Pre-Game Chatter: In a society so consumed with material gain, are there occasions when the kinds of materials we use truly matter?

As the Israelites complete the Mishkan (portable Tabernacle) in this week’s portions, we get a brief glimpse into the thought process behind some of the construction details:

The Pitch: “He made the laver of copper and its stand of copper, from the mirrors of the women who performed tasks at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting.” – Exodus 38:8

Swing #1: “Copper was an atonement for the people’s stiff-neckedness as Isaiah said (48:4): ‘Your neck is like an iron sinew, and your forehead like copper.’” – Rashi

Swing #2: “[The fact that they are made of mirrors] might support the contention that the ‘copper’ mentioned here is actually brass.” – Abarbanel

Swing #3: “This was not included in the ‘copper for the waving,’ as is explained in verse 30. The copper basin and its stand are mentioned as having been constructed from the amount of copper representing these mirrors.” – Sforno

Late-Inning Questions: Is it good for the Israelites to have a sacred object that reminds them of their shortcomings, as Rashi suggests? Can the fact that the copper basin is made from mirrors help the people reflect, literally and figuratively, about their choices? When is it most helpful for us to have reminders of our flaws, and can they inspire us to be better?

On-Deck at Emanu-El: We will dedicate next week’s Shabbat to hunger awareness. Our program at our March 16th FNL and our talks at our March 17th Shabbat morning service will set a proper tone for the upcoming Passover holiday, in which we are charged with the notion of “All who are hungry, come and eat.” Please join us for a meaningful Shabbat.

The Big Inning at the End: Vladimir Guerrero, Jr., is baseball’s hottest prospect at age 18. His father, the “original” Vladimir Guerrero, will be inducted to the Baseball Hall of Fame this summer. To what extent is an athlete’s success tied to his/her genetics? His/her opportunities as a youth? His/her work ethic and attitude? It will be fun to see how the younger Guerrero will provide us with another test case.

Shabbat Shalom!