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Vayakhel |  25 Adar I 5776  |  March 5th, 2016  |  Issue 641

This newsletter is dedicated in memory of Larry Roth z"l
Former President and Chairman of Torah MiTzion


   Rabbi Hanan Schlesinger

Former Shaliach in Boca Raton (1999-2007)
Currently Executive Director and Community Rabbinic Scholar of Dallas Kollel

Eroticism in the Service of God

Moshe Rabainu (Moses) thought it was obscene. God thought otherwise.  

While raw materials are being collected for the construction of the Tabernacle, hundreds of women assemble before Moshe to contribute their vanity mirrors. Moshe, according to the rabbinic tale, is repulsed by the thought of using their mirrors for the Tabernacle.  They are vehicles of lust, he says, and therefore disqualified from playing any role in divine service. Women stand in front of them to preen and beautify themselves, in order to arouse men’s baser impulses. He rejects the mirrors out of hand. 

God however, overruled Moshe and declared that these mirrors were more beloved by Him than all the other contributions for the building of the Tabernacle. Ultimately, the Torah tells us in this week’s Torah portion (Exodus chapter 38, verse 8), these brass mirrors were used to fashion the laver to be positioned in the Tabernacle courtyard, the waters of which the priests would use to cleanse themselves in preparation for the holy sacrificial service.

The story, as found in the Talmud and paraphrased in Rashi’s commentary on our Torah portion, goes on:  The men and women who built the Tabernacle in the Sinai desert were the same men and women who had earlier suffered the yoke of Egyptian bondage. Our sages explain that while enslaved, the menfolk lost all hope and concluded there was no point in giving birth to another generation of Israelites who would just be born and die in servitude. And so they refrained from intimacy with their wives. But the women had faith where the men had none. They would fight Pharaoh’s plan to destroy the Jewish People no matter what the circumstances. And so they conspired to arouse their husbands’ desire and thereby conceive, insuring that when the time for redemption came, there would be someone to redeem.

These mirrors were the means they used to execute their plan. Not only did they look at themselves as they dressed and applied their makeup. Rather, they would take the mirrors with them as they trekked out to the fields to be with their exhausted and discouraged husbands. The women, having brought with them food and water, would feed the men and give them to drink, and afterwards would bathe them and anoint them. Then they would use the mirrors to playfully display their beauty to their partners, thereby creating an atmosphere of love and bonding… 

The message is clear: Moshe was the humblest of men. His byword is modesty, tzniut in Hebrew. He cannot abide the vanity and the superficiality represented by this tool that one uses to look at his own image and beautify his or her self. He finds mirrors offensive, even disgusting. 

But God teaches him – and us – a lesson. Not all mirrors are the same.  Makeup and preening are not evils in and of themselves. Physical desires are not always bad. Sometimes it all depends on the framework, the context, the purpose.  It is true that the ends don’t always justify the means. Often they do not. But sometimes that which would appear to one to be disqualified for divine service, is instead precisely the means for approaching God for someone else. 

Perhaps, according to our sages, there are many ways to serve God, many more ways than we might think.

TMT Spotlight: Larry Roth z"l
President and Chairman of Torah Mitzion
Larry Roth z"l was a key founding partner of Torah MiTzion. The Roth family made Aliyah from Syracuse, New York, to Jerusalem in 1990.  Larry devoted his life to connecting people to each other, to their Judaism and to their Land. He served as the chairman of the board of trustees of World Bnei Akiva, was among the founders and president of Torah MiTzion and was very active in the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies.

Larry bridged worlds with his unique personality. Like Aharon HaKohen, he loved peace and pursued it, loved people and brought them closer to Torah (Avot 1:12). Larry served as  president and chairman of Torah MiTzion until his untimely death on 23 Adar, 2011 at the age of seventy.

Larry dedicated his time, energy and resources to ensuring the success of Torah MiTzion. Larry and Torah MiTzion’s mission were one - inspiring Diaspora Jewry with religious Zionist role models equally committed to defending their people and to learning and teaching Torah. Larry was an integral part of Torah MiTzion and his spirit lives on in every one of our centers around the world.

The Pardes Institute initiated the 9 Adar Project - the Jewish Day of Constructive Conflict - in his memory. On the 9th of Adar the dispute between Bet Hillel and Bet Shamai deteriorated to a violent struggle, and we commemorated the date by studying the topic. In addition, the weekly “Beit Midrash Boker” learning program in Jerusalem hosted Larry's son, Rabbi Daniel Roth, who gave a shiur in his memory.
Around The World
KTM Montreal's Spring Break Learning Program went snow tubing with Bnei Akiva
Torah MiTzion Moscow held an inspiring artistic activity
for young women
Torah MiTzion Capetown bachurim at a Hummus Party at the Herzelia school
The Memphis Shlichim joined The Cooper Yeshiva HS
for a ski trip and Shabbaton

     Arik Speaker                                   In cooperation with:

'Lilmod' Coordinator and Head of  European Desk in Torah MiTzion

The ancient city of Avdat in the Negev is a striking reminder of the centrality of the Land of Israel in the ancient trading routes. 

Avdat was founded by the Nabatean king Avdat II. The Nabateans were a tribe of merchants who came to Israel from the Arabian Peninsula during the Persian area.

The city was founded especially in this place because of the famous "Incense Route" which was one of the most important trade routes of the ancient times and which connected The East and Europe of those days. The route began in Arabia and continued to the Mediterranean. The route allowed the trade of many luxury items such as perfumes, silk, spices, gems, color, and more.

The section between Petra in Transjordan and Gaza in Israel was held by the Nabateans and Avdat was the most important city in this axis.

The city continued to be of major importance even after the disappearance of the Nabateans. Rome and Byzantine controlled the city in turn and established many temples. Today the site has many impressive remains, including a residential neighborhood with a lookout tower, a wine-press, remains of temples and churches, a military camp, many cave dwellings, a well preserved bathhouse, etc.

In 2005 Avdat was declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO.


Yasher Koach to 

Orly Zilbershlag
for providing the
correct answer


 Where was this photo taken?

Please send answers to -

The answer, further information about this location, as well as the  first person to recognize this site                                                                                             will be 
published in next week's edition.


Torah MiTzion was established in 1995 with the goal of strengthening Jewish communities around the globe and infusing them with the love for Torah, the Jewish People and the State of Israel. 


Over the past twenty years Torah MiTzion's shlichim have inspired and enriched their host communities through a wide range of high impact 
formal and informal 
educational programs.

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In cooperation with :

Our friend Benjy Singer has a very useful website,, which contains accurate and fresh information of what's going on in the Religious Anglo Community in Israel.