In this issue
April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review March 19, 2004 /26 Adar, 5764

Is intimacy holy? For whom?

By Rabbi Hillel Goldberg

Printer Friendly Version

Email this article

What a seemingly odd phrase in this week's Torah portion teaches humanity about the sanctity of marriage and family

http://www.jewishworldreview.com | The late chief rabbi of Jerusalem, Yaakov Bezalel Zolti (1919-1982), died suddenly. He wasn't ill, he wasn't old. He had a very regal bearing, added to a very sharp mind. I never saw anyone whose very presence commanded so much respect. Since I had been ordained by him, I paid a shiva call to the mourners.

In his apartment, the one empty chair was next to Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef, the towering Sefardic Torah scholar. In the 1960s, Rabbis Yosef, Zolti and Yosef. S. Eliashiv had served together on the Israeli chief rabbinate's high court. Rabbi Yosef was comforting the family by recalling Rabbi Zolti's abilities.

Rabbi Zolti, said Rabbi Yosef, had a powerful, perceptive and persuasive personality. He was a good listener, and he was decisive. Various divorce cases, for example, had dragged on for years. In countless instances Rabbi Zolti brought the parties together in one room — people who may not have spoken to each other for years — went through the issues and got the parties to settle, literally in an hour.

Said Rabbi Yosef: When Rabbi Zolti became the chief rabbi of Jerusalem, he inherited thousands of unresolved cases. The docket was backed up for years. When Rabbi Zolti died only a few years later, he left a docket dealing only with current cases. He had a tremendous talent in to cutting through rhetoric and emotion to make things whole for all concerned.

Justice delayed is justice denied. Divorce and dispute are painful enough; delay can be unbearable. The Torah had its own way of dealing with potential divorce cases, a ritual that went into abeyance more than 2,500 years ago, with the destruction of the First Temple. The point remains the same: Marriage is as holy as the Temple.

Donate to JWR

Media reports inundate us with news of illegal marriages performed by various municipal authorities. Perhaps it is pertinent to remind ourselves just what the Torah's attitude is toward intimate relationships, and for whom they are reserved.

This week's Torah portion contains an odd phrase. Bezalel made all of the sacred objects that filled the ancient Tabernacle constructed in the desert of Sinai. Among these objects was the laver. "And he [Bezalel] made the laver of copper and its base of copper, with legions of mirrors" (Exod. 38:8).

What are "legions of mirrors"?

Drawing on Rashi and other commentators, such as ibn Ezra, we learn:

Jewish women brought their mirrors, made of copper, to Bezalel. Unlike the other sacred objects in the Tabernacle, the Torah specified no measurements for the laver. Bezalel used every woman's mirror.

Moses objected to the use of these mirrors. They were inappropriate, he said, since they had been used to incite lust in Egypt. Jewish male slaves came home from work, beaten, exhausted, without strength for intimate relations with their wives. The women fancied themselves before their mirrors and positioned them so that their husbands would see. In this way the women — using the mirrors as a tool — guaranteed the survival of the Jewish people.

It was these very mirrors that the ancient Jewish women brought to Bezalel. He was to make a sacred object out of material that had been used to encourage intimate relations. Moses objected. A sacred object should not be made of such material! The two — holiness and marital relations — contradict each other.

G-d overruled even the great Moses. These mirrors should be accepted, said G-d; not only that, these mirrors were the most precious of all the materials supplied for the sacred objects in the Tabernacle. And all of the mirrors (the "legions" of mirrors) had to be used. So said G-d. The laver would have to be as big as the total smelted copper that the women's mirrors yielded.

The message is clear: Not only are holiness and marital relations not contradictory; they are, in a sense, the same. However, the holiness of intimate relations is, like all holiness, restricted, in this case to a man and a woman who are married. Outside that, intimate relations do not partake of holiness.

The laver had two purposes. The priests (kohanim) washed their hands and feet with water from the laver before they performed their sacred service. The water of the laver was also used to reestablish trust between a husband and a wife accused of adultery.

This process of trust, which falls under the general title "Sotah," is dealt with in Numbers 5:11-31. In those verses, the laver is identified twice. It provides the water for the ritual described there. The laver is essential for the process of reestablishing trust between husband and wife.

The connection is clear. The raw material — the copper mirrors — by which Jewish women in Egypt initiated relations and sustained their marriages, became the laver, which made it possible for a quarreling husband and wife to return to each other. The deeper connection is the holy one between them.

Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

JWR contributor Rabbi Hillel Goldberg is executive editor of the Intermountain Jewish News. To comment, please click here.

© 2004, Rabbi Hillel Goldberg