Making sense of the sedra: Women of Worth

The latest Jewish News

Read this week’s digital edition

Click Here

Making sense of the sedra: Women of Worth

In our thought-provoking new series, rabbis and rebbetzen relate the week’s parsha to the way we live today

In this week’s Parsha, Ki Tisa, we learn that after the Jews left Egypt, God commanded them to build a Mishkan, a portable Temple, which they were to take with them on their journeys through the Sinai desert. Part of the Mishkan layout was the kiyor, a large copper water basin in the forecourt. It was filled with water every morning so that the priests could pour water over their hands and feet before they performed the day’s Temple rituals.

When Moses appealed to the people for donations of precious metal for the construction of the Mishkan, many women brought their copper mirrors to be used as building materials. When Moses saw these, he thought: “How can I accept them? Women use them to beautify themselves and to be attractive to men.”

God rebuked Moses for seeking to reject these gifts. The Jewish women used them not for immorality but to be attractive to their own husbands. The men were so exhausted and demoralised by the slavery in Egypt that they no longer had any regard for their wives. The future of the next generation of the Jewish people hung in the balance.

The midrash [interpretation] teaches that the Jewish women used their mirrors to reawaken their husbands’ attention. They sat with their husbands and looked at their reflections, saying: “I look nicer than you!” This breathed new life into their relationships, and babies were born
as a result.

God commanded Moses: “The mirrors were used for beauty and spirituality and will have an honoured place in my holy dwelling place.”

It is a tragic reflection on our society that women are still so at risk that our Parliament is currently debating whether misogyny ought to be classed as a hate crime.

Feminine beauty, which the Torah presents as a key to holiness is, for some, a cue for immorality and assault.

Women are the people who are naturally the closest to God’s own standard of perfection, and a man who harms or insults a woman tramples underfoot the natural perfection that God has granted to him as
a guide.

But we Jews still nurture the spirituality of the kiyor in our daily routine. Every morning, we wash our hands in the same way as the priests did on entering the Temple.

A memory of the kiyor’s respect for proper feminine beauty starts off every Jewish day, and we are reminded each day of the holiness of every woman.


by Rebbetzin Rachie Lister Edgware United Synagogue

Support your Jewish community. Support your Jewish News

Thank you for helping to make Jewish News the leading source of news and opinion for the UK Jewish community. Today we're asking for your invaluable help to continue putting our community first in everything we do.

Unlike other Jewish media, we do not charge for content. That won’t change. Because we are free, we rely on advertising to cover our costs. This vital lifeline, which has dropped in recent years, has fallen further due to coronavirus.

For as little as £5 a month you can help sustain the vital work we do in celebrating and standing up for Jewish life in Britain.

Jewish News holds our community together and keeps us connected. Like a synagogue, it’s where people turn to feel part of something bigger. It also proudly shows the rest of Britain the vibrancy and rich culture of modern Jewish life.

You can make a quick and easy one-off or monthly contribution of £5, £10, £20 or any other sum you’re comfortable with.

100% of your donation will help us continue celebrating our community, in all its dynamic diversity...


Being a community platform means so much more than producing a newspaper and website. One of our proudest roles is media partnering with our invaluable charities to amplify the outstanding work they do to help us all.


There’s no shortage of oys in the world but Jewish News takes every opportunity to celebrate the joys too, through projects like Night of Heroes, 40 Under 40 and other compelling countdowns that make the community kvell with pride.


In the first collaboration between media outlets from different faiths, Jewish News worked with British Muslim TV and Church Times to produce a list of young activists leading the way on interfaith understanding.


Royal Mail issued a stamp honouring Holocaust hero Sir Nicholas Winton after a Jewish News campaign attracted more than 100,000 backers. Jewish Newsalso produces special editions of the paper highlighting pressing issues including mental health and Holocaust remembrance.

Easy access

In an age when news is readily accessible, Jewish News provides high-quality content free online and offline, removing any financial barriers to connecting people.

Voice of our community to wider society

The Jewish News team regularly appears on TV, radio and on the pages of the national press to comment on stories about the Jewish community. Easy access to the paper on the streets of London also means Jewish News provides an invaluable window into the community for the country at large.

We hope you agree all this is worth preserving.

read more: