Ki Tisa - Preparation

You shall make a washstand of copper and its base of copper for washing, and you shall place it between the Tent of Meeting and the altar, and you shall put water therein
וְעָשִׂיתָ כִּיּוֹר נְחשֶׁת וְכַנּוֹ נְחשֶׁת לְרָחְצָה וְנָתַתָּ אֹתוֹ בֵּין אֹהֶל מוֹעֵד וּבֵין הַמִּזְבֵּחַ וְנָתַתָּ שָׁמָּה מָיִם
Shmot 30:18

The Slonimer Rebbe raises the question (Netivot Shalom), why does commandment to build the 'washstand' appear here, and not earlier with the rest of the Mishkan's vessels in Parshat Trumah?

Elements of the Beit HaMikdash
In man, there are different parts that keep people firmly rooted to the ground - the mind, the heart, the lower parts of the body. Yet it is a Jew's mission to elevate himself and all his parts to the connect with HaKadosh Baruch Hu. For this, the different parts of the Beit HaMikdash come together to reflect the operations of the different parts of the human body.
  • Holy of Holies - Brain
  • Ark - Heart
  • Outer courtyard and external alter - lower parts.
However the washstand has a different purpose. It doesn't have a corresponding part of the body nor likewise a related action in the Beit HaMikdash. Rather the role of the washstand is one of PREPARATION before doing any of the other activities that take place in the Beit HaMikdash.  Right up to Yom Kippur, every Kohen up to the Kohen HaGadol, would first come to the washstand and wash their hands and feet before initiating any activity in the Beit HaMikdash. This act would change their entire self and reality.

The act of washing is further reminiscent of Tshuvah - washing away the past. For every Jew undertakes an act of Tshuvah upon stepping forward to serve Hashem.

There are two aspects to Tshuvah.
  • Tshuvah upon an act that we regret doing
  • Tshuvah about the reality we find ourselves
The washstand comes to cleanse of our reality - elevate us out of the low state we find ourselves. Unlike the other vessels, the washstand does not come to partake in directly serving Hashem rather it is special, a vessel for preparing for all other activity.

Taking Time
The concept of taking time to prepare is deeply rooted in Jewish tradition. Hasidim held that preparing to perform a mitzvah took on greater importance that the mitzvah itself. Take tefillin. When a Jew comes to put on tefillin and says something like "Here I am intending by donning this tefillin to fulfill a mitzvah that my creator would like me to feel throughout my soul, yet how can a man of flesh and blood know the greatness and grandness of Hashem to come to offer prayers before Hashem?"

It is said  in the Mishnah about the preparations of the righteous of old.
One may only stand and begin to pray from an approach of gravity and submission. There is a tradition that the early generations of pious men would wait one hour, in order to reach the solemn frame of mind appropriate for prayer, and then pray, so that they would focus their hearts toward their Father in Heaven.
אין עומדין להתפלל אלא מתוך כובד ראש חסידים הראשונים היו שוהין שעה אחת ומתפללין כדי שיכוונו לבם לאביהם שבשמים

I heard a shiur recently that related to how we can make changes in our approach to Mitzvot, making them more meaningful and bringing us closer to Hashem. So often we relate to the mitzvot as actions that we must perform - requirements, even (chas v'chalila) a burden. Like when we say, "Oh, I've gotta daven Mincha now." It feels like an interruption to something else, a disturbance.

Rather we could take a step back and in preparation for a mitzvah we could say "I GET to daven Mincha now!"

Through this small turn of the words, we can apply a sense of preparation to mitzvahs and elevate their significance. This changes the approach from being a disturbance to being a chance to step back and work on our relationship with Hashem.

 In this way, we turn that feeling of burden into ... an opportunity.

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