Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Shemini-Parah(chukat) 76 - The way we speak, P.M.I & CPS - collaborative problem solving

The Parasha- Portion of Shemimi – Parah (Chukat) deals  with the Inauguration of the Tabernacle – Mishkan, the Dietary laws – kosher animals etc.  and the purification process using the Red heifer – Parah A'dumah . The features and characteristics that distinguish animals from plants is that they have mobility and eat  food. And what makes them kosher is that their  limbs are not designed for aggression – a cloven hoof and bringing up/ chewing  the cud as opposed to feet with claws or a full hoof  (kicking ) and a digestive system and teeth that serve predators and carnivorous animals well. What distinguishes man from the animal is sophisticated communication and speech. So a kosher man is not a man who puts into his mouth only kosher food, but a man who is also particular of what comes out of his mouth. The Midrash commentary on Parashat Chukat quotes Psalms 12 - the sayings of God are pure and gives examples from the Torah so man can learn to emulate God. Instead of describing animals that went into the ark as Tameih and impure, the Torah which usually concise and uses few words says that the not pure animals went into the ark, a more positive and finer expression than the negative description of ' impure ' animals. When the Torah in our parasha lists the non-kosher animals for e.g. the camel, it first describes the positive-kosher feature that it brings up its cud, and then afterwards says, but its hoof is not split encouraging us to talk firstly about the positive in people. The Midrash then says that the generation of King David suffered losses in battle because there were slanderers and people spoke ' lashon ha'rah. The generation of Ahab, despite being idolatrous, was victorious because they did not speak badly about one another. Speech and communication should make a positive contribution to people.

The way we speak impacts on our relationships with people and how we solve problems. The problem in our parasha was the dispute between Moses and Aaron concerning the sin offering goat for the Rosh Chodesh service. Two other goat sin offerings that were specific to the inauguration ceremony – the special offering of the tribal leader of Judah, Nachshon and one for the inauguration ritual for the Tabernacle were never to be brought again and were called kodshei sha'ah. The Rosh Chodesh goat offering would be brought at the beginning of each month was not specific to the inauguration ritual and was called kodshei olam   le'dorot. Moses instructed the priests – kohanim to eat the mincha offerings which were kodshei sha'ah and also the meat of the sin offerings. The question was - did this instruction include the sin offering of Rosh Chodesh, even though it was not specific to the ceremony and kodshei le'dorot.? The problem or Moses' unmet expectation was that the sin offering was not eaten but burned. Moses was extremely angry and criticized Aaron's sons (not Aaron himself, out of respect for Aaron) for not eating the sin offering. Aaron answers and gives an explanation which Moses accepts. The Sages say that Moses erred because he became angry and had it not been for his anger he would have been able to get a clear understanding of the concerns of the Kohanim and come to the conclusion that they had acted properly.

Edward de Bono's P.M.I tool helps us deal with situations when our  expectations are not met. In order to get a better understanding of what others are saying and be more creative and exploratory we should first look at the positives – the P, about their idea, statement or action. Then we can use our critical thinking skills and look for the Minuses, and then ask questions what will happen If... and make Interesting points or observations about the Idea. This is the same lesson which the Torah teaches, when it teaches us about the positive or kosher feature of the camel before mentioning the negative and non-kosher feature. It is very difficult to see the other's point of view and perspective if we are first use our critical thinking skills. Intelligent people are often non-creative and bad thinkers because they are only focused on criticizing the other position and defending theirs. When Moses heard Aaron's reasoning, he accepted it and did not try to defend his position.   Ross Greene's CPS – collaborative problem solving model suggests that a person with an  unmet expectation, whether a parent, teacher, peer etc. should in a non-emotive neutral way, just describe what he has seen and ask – what's up? So Moses could have just said – I have noticed that the goat offering of Rosh Chodesh has been burnt and not eaten, what's up? Aaron would then express his concern and perspective. The CPS model first focuses on the concerns and perspectives of the other person, student or child and then the  the care giver or teacher, parent etc. would put his concerns and perspective  on the table. Then the parties are invited to brain storm durable and realistic solutions that address both concerns and are mutually satisfactory.  Here we adopt a similar approach of Beit Hillel who first tried to understand the other party's perspective and learning before sharing their perspective and learning.

Moses was understandably angry, anxious and concerned about integrity and spiritual  perfection  of the tabernacle-mishkan.  The tragic death of Nadav and Avihu caused by them initiating the bringing of their own incense, an eish zarah, a foreign fire into the Holy of Holies was in sense a replay of the sin of the golden calf after the  receiving of the Torah on Mount Sinai. On the day of their death, Aaron and his other sons became 'onenim', mourners who may not perform mitzvoth including the temple service. Moses told Aron that as an exception to this  rule,  they were obligated to do the inauguration service. The test whether the erection of the Mishkan was successful and an  atonement for the sin of the Golden calf would be the Kohanim eating from the meat of the Rosh Chodesh sin offering (which was not part of the inauguration ritual) after the completion of the inaugural ritual. When Kohanim eat from God's table, it is an expression that God's presence resides in the Holy place and there is atonement for the people. Aaron answered that because they were special mourners, one'nim, they lacked the sanctity and holiness to affect atonement through their eating of the offerings and cause God's presence to reside in the mishkan –tabernacle. The deficiency was not in the mishkan, but in their person. As one'nim- mourners they lacked simcha – joy and sanctity which impacted negatively on their inner souls and beings and the ability to connect to God. They  therefore they could not eat from the sin offering of Rosh Chodesh as it was kodshei olam le'dorot and not specific to the inaugural ritual.

It is interesting to note that Aaron did not respond with a direct answer to Moses, but in a tentative way asked if it was proper for him as an Onen to eat from the Rosh Chodesh offering, and would God have approved of it?  The Telze Rov says that Aaron acted in the same way as a child should act. The child should bring a parent's attention to the Halacha-law written in the Torah by asking a question and not directly criticize a parent. The parent would come to his own conclusion and correct himself while his dignity remains intact.

We can learn from Aaron that the way we speak to parents is a respectable way to speak to all people including children. Communication and problem solving should be respectful and positive and focus on identifying the concerns of all and then brainstorming solutions that are mutually satisfactory.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Vayikrah- Tzav 76 - Give the Sinner a Gift , not Punishment

The Midrash asks –' what should be the consequences or punishment for a person who sins. Wisdom answered that bad things should pursue him, Prophecy answered, that the sinner should die, the Torah answered that he should bring an offering. Bringing an offering would help if there is a temple- Beit Hamikdash in Jerusalem .God- Hashem responds , that the sinner should repent and in so doing be atoned for the sin. Parashat  Vayikrah and Tzav deal with the 'Korban Cha'tat , the sin offering brought by a person wishing to repent and atone for mistakes or sins done inadvertently , not willfully and not on purpose. The offering is an attempt to get closer to God and elevate oneself after ' a fall', caused by sinning. If the offering to Hashem-God is from yourself, your humanity, and inner –being, sincere and intrinsically motivated, you will be elevated and the offering will have the exalted status of an offering to Hashem.  In connection with offerings only the name of God- Hashem representing the divine attribute of Mercy is used and not the name Elohim, which represents the divine attribute of Judgment. When people sin or when children break rules should we not be talking about judgment and making people and kids accountable for their sins as Wisdom and Prophecy argued  in the Midrash ,so why does Hashem-God approach man's failures with the' midat of ra'chamim, the attribute of mercy?'

The reason is that Hashem-God acts out of love towards people who fall and sin. It is the same with kids – they need our love and support even more when they screw up and do things which are inappropriate. The korban cha'tat, the sin offering and the accompanying   act of Teshuvah – repentance, is a ' gift ' from God, not a punishment or a consequence. In the same way, after the sin of the Golden Calf Hashem gave the children of Israel the gift of the 13 attributes of Hashem, יג מידות to help with the  process of Teshuvah, forgiveness and atonement.  Instead of punishments we should be giving gifts in order   to help a child or a person get back on track, and reach even newer heights and greater connection with God, his parents or teachers.

The accountability of the Torah is not about paying the price or suffering, but coming up with a better plan, making a change from the inside, engaging in an autonomous way in the moral act of restitution and making amends. It means strengthening the relationship and trust between child and his caregivers and of course enhancing ones' relationship with God.

There are several reasons why the relationship between man and God, between people and between children and caregivers needs to be supportive and not punitive. We want to teach the lesson that ' mistakes are our friends ' and that the path to emotional and spiritual growth means trying, falling and failing and then getting up with a new plan. Mistakes, failure and even sin are part of our engaging in and learning of Torah and essential to understanding and growing in Torah.  – אין אדם עומד על דברי תורה אלא אם כן נכשלים בהם תחילה   - A person does not gain an understanding or appreciation of the words of the Torah until he falters or stumbles in them. When talking about the meal offering, the mincha, the Torah notes that the meal offering is the holiest of the holy, like the sin offering and guilt offering ' קדש קדשים הוא כחטאת וכאשם '. The gold standards for the holy of holies are the sin offerings of the Cha'tat  and Asham. The Kli Yakar explains that a righteous person who has never sinned is considered holy , but a person who has sinned, but then works on himself, changes from the inside  and overcomes resistance  to change from that he has become accustomed to , and travels a great distance to connect to Hashem is considered the Holy of the Holies. The Talmud says - In a place where a 'Ba'al Teshuvah '- a repentant stands, a completely righteous person does not stand. Also when he repents out of love, his intentional sins are transformed into merits. The Ba'al Teshuvah uses his past negative experiences as a vehicle of learning so that his understanding of a sin and the negative experience gives a deeper appreciation and understanding of the mitzvoth and a connection to Hashem. In this way, he becomes a light and teacher to others who have sinned.

A belief that ' mistakes are our friends ' is important also for human relationships and connection between people and our connection with God.  A person who is willing to expose his vulnerability is not threatening and attracts connection, relationship and support because of his authenticity, humility and humanness. A connection with God depends on our humility and expressing our need for God's forgiveness and support. People who are competitive are not willing to cooperate with others, also out of fear of exposing incompetence or vulnerability. The road to spiritual and emotional empowerment is full of bumps in the road. It is only when we are willing to take risks and make mistakes knowing that failure is not in the falling, but in not getting up and there are plenty of good people who are supportive and offer encouragement, we grow in Torah and the love and fear of Hashem.

In the same way that Teshuvah-repentance  is an autonomous experience done out of love, we have to aim to help kids to be intrinsically motivated to do positive actions and mitzvoth. We cannot educate using the 'lo lishmah' – extrinsic motivation and hope everything will automatically turn out all right. The end of the parasha talks also about the consecration and purification of the altar by bringing a sin offering. The question is asked – why was there a need to being a sin offering. The Ramban explains that when people were asked to voluntary donate to the building of the mishkan, some people  felt in the depth of their hearts  pressurized into donating or donating more and the result was the using  ' of stolen goods' for the building of the mishkan. The sin offering was brought to atone for using such stolen goods. We cannot ignore motives, intentions and feelings, no matter how deep they are in the hearts of people and children.

It is so much easier to focus on behaviors and actions and get compliance using rewards, stickers, praise, consequences and punishments. But actions without the heart and the soul corrupt these actions. Actions are defined by the intentions, motives, love and joy with which they are done. Kids become authors of their actions when kids feel self-determined and  intrinsically motivated. So when they do Teshuvah or any positive action, it is authentic to themselves and brings them closer to God, His Torah and people

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Vayikrah 76 - Social Thinking and Da'at = Social Intelligence

The Book of Leviticus- Vayikrah deals with the sacrifices, holiness and purity. It opens with … 'And Hashem- God called Moses and spoke to him saying '…The commentaries explain that Moses did not want to enter the Tabernacle- Mishkan until God had given him an invitation and permission to enter. The Midrash commentary says 'that any sage or wise scholar who has no da'at – social intelligence, is worse than a rotting carcass. Moses, who was extremely close to God, his representative and emissary in the world to teach God's Torah, perform miracles etc and he even built the Mishkan, did not enter the mishkan until God called him and invited him to enter. And just as Moses acted with דרך ארץ – derech e'retz and sensitivity, God called Moses and addressed him by his name. From this למדה התורה דרך ארץ, the Torah taught derech e'retz, the way of the world, as how people should interact with each other. If a person wants to have a conversation with someone, he should first address him by his name and then start the conversation.   
God's call to Moses was out of affection and relationship. On the other hand, God just appeared to Bilaam, the prophet of the surrounding nations, as if by chance. Out of humility, Moses wrote the words 'and God called '- וַיִּקְרָא with a small ' aleph ', so God's revelation to him would be written as similar to that of Bilaam –ויקר by chance. It seems that a precondition for prophecy, the frame of mind for engaging in the offering of sacrifices and a relationship with God and people is humility. R' Akivah says a person who is arrogant because of his Torah learning, is like a rotting carcass. "אִם נָבַלְתָּ בְהִתְנַשֵּׂא '… you became like a rotting carcass' by being arrogant.-Proverbs 30:32. This wise scholar or sage may be academically intelligent but lacks social- emotional skills, sensitivity to others, derech e'retz, common sense and common courtesies. Because of his arrogance he fails to take into account the concerns and perspectives of others, how they perceive his teaching and behavior and the possible impact and consequences of his actions on others. The sage desecrates God's name with his behavior, people say that the Torah is to blame for his behavior, and at worst, it is possible that some people would learn bad ways from him. A rotting carcass does not do much damage and people know to keep away because of the bad smell. A leading Rabbinical Judge R' Shlomo D'chovsky in his farewell speech on retiring, encouraged fellow judges – your decisions don't always have to be ' glatt', taking into account all the stringencies of the law. Sometimes a b'di'eved or lenient decision may more accurately reflect the situation and meet the needs of the parties concerned. A stringent decision may cause more problems and certainly not be true, just and contribute to peaceful relationships. R' Isaac Sher asks that( 1) all people , not only wise scholars and judges have to act with derech e'retz, be sensitive to others and act with common courtesy so why does the midrash refer only to a sage and (2) why does the midrash use the word ' da'at '  instead of the word ' derech e'retz . The wise scholar and sage, because of their learning of God's Torah are expected to reflect on the highest levels of understanding as to how people are supposed to interact with each other and be highly sensitive to how they impact on others and how they perceive their needs. The scholar should be learning practical lessons on human refinement and sensitivity from his learning and finding ways to apply his learning to an imperfect world taking into account how people experience what he says and does. This is not just derech e'retz but da'at , a highly sophisticated social intelligence and understanding of  'da'at elyon', the highest form of intelligence. When such a person is honest in his business dealings , and he speaks pleasantly to people , people begin to speak positively about him and say that his teachers and parents who have taught him Torah are sure to be happy and proud of him. The reason his ways are fine and his deeds are righteous is because this man has studied the Torah.

When it comes to children and teenagers, their lack of derech e'retz, da'at or social intelligence has less to do with character or personality flaws like arrogance, but more to do about lagging social skills. Adult problems may also be due to ' untreated lagging skills ' when they were kids .We are born to a 'social mind ' which has a predisposition to ' empathy' and available to learning. New born babies identify with the cries of other babies, showing the trait of empathy. Crucial for the development of the social mind is child- directed play with others, and also an exposure to a lot of non-verbal and verbal language. Unfortunately, children are being introduced to academic learning at a younger age and this comes at the expense of social and emotional learning – less time for play and adults focusing on compliance. And some kids are developmentally delayed and have difficulty in naturally learning these social skills and therefore are challenged in area of social interactions.

Teaching kids by rote ' social scripts or behaviors' in the hope that they can generalize to other situations and help them function more socially does not help very much. Instead of static skills, they need to learn dynamic skills that enhance their dynamic intelligence so they learn to be flexible and adapt their behavior depending on situations and people involved. This is done by promoting ' social thinking' so the skills developed are not isolated, but a product of a problem solving process. It is not only being able to perform the skill that is important, but understanding the context and the purpose of the skill. Social thinking is how we navigate the space we share with others. We have to interpret and understand peoples' motives, intentions, concerns, to assess how others are feeling and predict what will happen next – how people will react and the consequences of our words and actions etc. it is not enough for a kid to understand his intentions but how others are reading his intentions. A kid maybe able to identify his concerns and the concerns of others, but he must also be able have some understanding as to how they interpret his intentions. In the social arena, a problem is not only about the kid having a problem pursuing his concerns, but often the problem includes addressing the concerns and expectations of others. The child also needs to learn to initiate conversations, articulate his concerns, and participate in brainstorming solutions that are realistic, durable and mutually satisfying.

In Schools and even in homes, social and emotional learning is about adult expectations and the consequences imposed on kids for infractions and rewards or praise for compliance. Besides promoting the most primitive form of morality , helping kids to ask what's in it for me ,  they never learn to ask themselves what are the consequences of my actions on other people and the environment. Adults never model perspective taking and seeing the kids ' world through their eyes'. They fail to learn the lesson – that it is not what we teach that matters, but what kids learn, and how kids experience what we do to them and say. What matters is just ' behavior ', ignoring the whole child, his feeling and motives, in the blind belief in the power of the Lo lishma, m'toch she'lo lishmah ba lishmah.  Hillel taught – if I am not for myself, who is for me and if I am only for myself, who am I. If we totally ignore kids concerns and expectations, we don't teach them the social skills and social thinking as how to pursue their own needs in appropriate ways and yet take into accounts the perspectives and concerns of others. If we want kids to have derch e'retz, da'at and social skills we need to take steps - more play and more social, emotional learning focusing on social thinking.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Pekudei 76 - Being Self-Determined and submitting to God's Will

The last portion of the book of Exodus – Shemot   describes the construction and completion of the keilim- components, utensils of the tabernacle – Mishkan and priestly garments. After the completion of a utensil, component, or priestly garment, the Torah says that ' they were made exactly as Hashem- God commanded Moses'. This phrase is repeated separately for all the utensils- keilim etc. Instead of repeating this expression 18 times, the Torah could have simply said that ALL the components and priestly garments were made exactly like Hashem commanded Moses. After the work of the Mishkan was completed the Torah notes that the Children of Israel had done everything as Hashem commanded Moses and adds to this ' so did they do '. This expression is repeated again when the components of the Mishkan are brought to Moses.  Moses notes that they were made according to God's will and he then blesses the Mishkan and the people.

וַיַּעֲשׂוּ אֶת בִּגְדֵי הַקֹּדֶשׁ אֲשֶׁר לְאַהֲרֹן כַּאֲשֶׁר צִוָּה יְדֹוָד אֶת משֶׁה:  (לב) וַתֵּכֶל כָּל עֲבֹדַת מִשְׁכַּן אֹהֶל מוֹעֵד וַיַּעֲשׂוּ בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל כְּכֹל אֲשֶׁר צִוָּה יְדֹוָד אֶת משֶׁה כֵּן עָשׂוּ: כְּכֹל אֲשֶׁר צִוָּה יְדֹוָד אֶת משֶׁה כֵּן עָשׂוּ בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל אֵת כָּל הָעֲבֹדָה:(מג) וַיַּרְא משֶׁה אֶת כָּל הַמְּלָאכָה וְהִנֵּה עָשׂוּ אֹתָהּ כַּאֲשֶׁר צִוָּה יְדֹוָד כֵּן עָשׂוּ וַיְבָרֶךְ אֹתָם משֶׁה:
So our question is – for what reason does the Torah repeat so often that the components and priestly garments were made exactly the way Hashem commanded Moses. We have a second question. Why are the children of Israel accredited with making the Mishkan when we know it was only Betzalel and some other artisans who were involved in the construction of the Miskan?

We have a similar case.  Hashem- God commands Moses to instruct Aaron with regard to kindling the menorah- candelabra. The Torah notes that Aaron did exactly what he was told to do. The commentary explains that Aaron did not change or deviate from God's instruction and this was deserving of praise. When people are highly motivated in spiritual matters, like here, where the building of the Mishkan would be atonement for the sin of the Golden calf and cause the shechinah – divine presence to rest on the people, there is a tendency to try one's best and look for ways to improve things and be creative, in ways that one glorifies the mitzvah with a ' hidur mitzvah '. What often happens is that the person adds a new dimension to the mitzvah,  adds to the mitzvah and thus deviates from the 'halacha' and God's will. The builders of the Mishkan are being praised for being compliant and doing exactly what they were told, negating any personal desire to ' improve things ' and make changes. The sin of the golden calf was man deciding how to worship God.

It would seem that the repetition of ' they did exactly what Hashem commanded Moses ' teaches us the importance of being compliant and submitting to God's will  and as parents and educators we should focus on making kids compliant and submissive to authority. In the beginning of the parashat Vayakhel, Moses gathers the people and as a community, tells them about the mitzvah – commandment to build the mishkan, a resting place for the divine presence. God – Hashem calls on people who are intrinsically motivated and whose hearts  and spirit moves them to come and donate the materials, talents and skills needed to build the mishkan. We see that Hashem –God   is not looking for compliant and submissive people.  The challenge was for people to come forward and contribute out of total love, dedication  and without any other ulterior motives donate their hearts and spirit. When there is a desire for more spirituality people often will make changes or additions in a physical or external way, instead of working on   themselves workingand  on their inner souls,- pnimi'yut. We can compare the building of the mishkan to a musician who has to give musical expression to a composition from Mozart or Beethoven. He certainly would not deviate from the musical notes, but try his best to give expression to the wishes of the composer. He is true to the music, authentic and yet we experience his personal style, skill, knowledge and emotional commitment. The building of the mishkan was for the purpose of providing a resting place for the divine presence – shechinah and an atonement for the sin of the golden calf. This meant that the wisdom, craftsmanship and skill needed to be accompanied by a spiritual dimension. Betzalel knew how to join and combine letters with which the heavens and earth were created. It required a great amount of spiritual input - holiness, purity of thought, intentions, learning, etc so that the keilim- utensils and priestly garments could be injected with spirituality. In this way , it was made certain that all the keilim –utensils and priestly garments were made exactly like God commanded Moshes, that human desire and intelligence not only submitted itself to the divine command and divine intelligence but  people would make  supreme efforts to align their thoughts and be faithful to the divine commandments. It was not about being passive and submissive, but being highly inspired, intrinsically motivated and feeling self-determined in fulfilling God's commandment thus enabling the divine presence to rest on the Miskan and the people.

Another important focus of the contributors to the Miskan, whether it was donating material for the Miskan or the few that were involved in the actual construction was a sense of mission on behalf of the whole community of Israel. It was a feeling that the connection to the community ensured that they had a part in what mitzvoth the members of the community did and they in turn by using their talents or making a financial contribution would ensure that others in the community have a part in the mitzvah of building the Miskan. Their inspiration, whether as leaders or talented artisans was the community. It is the community that connects between people, makes people feel responsible for each other, and turns people into a single entity. It is the community that justifies any position of leadership or making a contribution to others.  For this reason, the Torah summarizes the construction process as the children of Israel, not individual artisans that did exactly what God commanded Moses. It was a joint effort that would enable the divine presence to rest on the tabernacle-mishkan and the community. And it was for this reason that Moses called the community together and as a community he gave them the commandment to build the tabernacle-mishkan.

As parents and educators we must understand that being compliant and submitting to God's will is not because of a fear or respect for authority but its source is a love for God, feeling self-determined  and having a need to connect and submit to God-Hashem and His divine intelligence.  It won't happen until we let kids grapple with ideas, explore questions and experience what it means to be part of a God fearing caring and responsible community.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Vayakhel 76 - The Copper Mirrors and Photos of your Children

Which task was more difficult - the creation of the world or the building of the mishkan –tabernacle? The  Talmud –Ketuvot 5  makes a comparison between  them and says that the deeds of the righteous, the building of the mishkan are greater than  the act of creation of the world which was done with  one hand  ,"my hand established the land  "-   "אף ידי יסדה ארץ but the building of the tabernacle   , was  the work of both hands –"  "מקדש ה′ כוננו ידיך- your hands have established God's sanctuary .The source of holiness and purity is from Hashem-God , but its manifestation in this world depends of acts of the people and especially  righteous ones who themselves are described as the sanctuary of Hashem. The task of building the mishkan and its keilim-utensils was given to Betzalel. It involved more than just producing and manufacturing the utensils. The primary task was to use חכמה ומלכת מחשבת   , wisdom, thoughtful design and craft. It meant injecting all the utensils- keilim with holiness and purity – kedushah and ta'harah so that they would be the conduit to channel God's abundance in the form of wisdom, Torah, prosperity, forgiveness and atonement to the people. Betzalel would thus relate to the utensils on the deepest level of understanding and intentions in order to inject them with kedusha - holiness.
 With regard to the Kiyor- washbasin –laver ,  it is written that Betzalel made the copper washbasin and its copper base out of the mirrors of the dedicated women [ha-tzove'ot] who congregated at the entrance of the Communion Tent. (Ex. 38:8). The Midrash commentary gives the background. Moses rejected these copper mirrors because mirrors, although they are important for the husband –wife relationship, they are perceived as objects that promote lust, vanity and self-centeredness. God told Moses to accept them, because they are more precious than anything else because through them a new generation, legions of people was born. The women, by their faith, courage and ingenuity, secured Jewish survival. The Egyptians not only had a policy of infanticide towards the boys, but decided to destroy desire with back-breaking slave labor and interrupt family life by preventing men from returning home and being with their wives. The righteous women used the mirrors to make themselves up and adorn themselves. They then went into the fields to tend to their weary and tired husbands and seduce them  using the mirrors. Together they would look at each other in the mirror and the wife would say to the husband ' I am more beautiful than you ' and this would arouse the husband and lead to intimacy.
The women's dedication to their husbands and the future of the nation of Israel  ,  injected kedusha- holiness and sanctity into the mirrors which made them fitting for the kiyor – the washbasin. The water from the kiyor was used by the Priests-Kohanim to sanctify and purify their hands and feet as they entered the Mishkan to do the daily service, a reminder that kedusha depends on a person's intentions, actions, thoughts and motivations. The water from the' kiyor ' was also used in the process to restore marital harmony and trust when a wife was suspected of being unfaithful and misusing her passions.
The Midrash said that the mirrors were not only used to help the woman put on their makeup, but she also wanted her husband to look in the mirror and see how beautiful she was. The question is asked, why didn't the wife simply say to the husband,' look at me '– without using the mirror - , 'I am more beautiful than you'. The answer is that people tend to 'project' their feelings and state of mind onto the people they are interacting with. This is even more so when people are stressed out, over-worked and depressed. They don't see the other person and here ' a wife ' as an independent entity outside of themselves. They see them as extensions of themselves. It takes a photograph or seeing the person in a mirror in order to see the other person as somebody separate from them and see their real beauty, depth and many levels.
As parents and educators we need to regularly look at photos of children. We, especially parents see children as extensions of ourselves or there just to do what they are told, be compliant and don't make trouble. When children are viewed only in terms of meeting our expectations, then any inappropriate behavior is seen as an attempt to avoid tasks, attention seeking or attempting to get something. But if we see kids as separate from ourselves, as independent entities with a neshama and soul, we can start to see the world through their eyes and acknowledge that they too have legitimate concerns, perspectives and needs. We all seek attention, avoid tasks that we don't find appealing or try to get what we want. The difference is that some kids don't have the skills to do that in an appropriate way. When there are unsolved problems or infractions we may try to motivate a kid to behave better using rewards, punishments, consequences or non-verbal rewards like praise. When we do this, we first are only concerned about our unmet expectations of kids and getting them to be compliant. We totally ignore their concerns or any of their unmet needs. But if we use collaborative problem solving we first explore their concerns and help them put them on the table so they feel understood, we then share our concerns and then try to solve the problem by finding a mutually satisfying solution that addresses both concerns.
When it comes to learning, academics or even sports we focus on achievement and kids meeting our goals and expectations. We are not concerned whether the kids enjoy or can relate to what they are learning and doing and whether they find the activity interesting and enjoyable. We are only concerned with success and failure. We need to take heed of the words of Jerome Bruner – those kids should experience success and failure only as information so we can help them focus on what they are doing, connect to what they are doing and not focus on how they are doing. It is only when we see them as separate entities with their own wishes and personalities that we can respect their autonomy and respects their choices.
Sanctity and kedushah means that we relate to people and the world with depth and on a higher level. Just as we try to elevate the material world and inject spirituality with our thoughts, intentions, and motives and how we use the world also trying to benefit others and the community, we need to relate to people and especially our spouses, children and students, not as projections of ourselves but as separate people with souls. We need to connect to children etc on this higher level, and connect to their souls so we can help them to help themselves to elevate themselves and the world around them.