The kiyorwas made from copper mirrors. What function did these mirrors serve in Egypt?
38:8 He made the copper washstand and its copper base out of the mirrors of the dedicated women who congregated at the entrance of the Ohel Mo'ed (Tent of Meeting).
Among the donations the women brought were their mirrors. These were made out of very highly polished, bright copper. The women would look into these mirrors when they made themselves up. These mirrors aided in the proliferation of the Jewish People. The Jewish women in Egypt would look in the mirrors so as to awaken the affections of their husbands who were exhausted by their slave labor.
When Moshe saw these mirrors, he did not want to accept them. He said, "This is something that helps the yetzer hara (evil urge). The women make themselves up and the men are led to sin. They may not be used for a holy purpose."
G-d said to Moshe, "Accept them. These mirrors are more precious to Me than anything else that was brought. Because of these mirrors, the righteous women in Egypt had many children and caused such a large number of people to leave during the Exodus.
"When their husbands were working with mortar and bricks, these women would bring them food. Each one would look at herself along with her husband. This would arouse their desire. They would come together and the women would become pregnant. When the time came for them to give birth, they would go under the apple trees and have their children.
"Therefore, the women did a holy deed through these mirrors. They made themselves up for their husbands, not for strange men. They wanted to fulfill the mitzvah of having children, causing many Benei Yisrael to come into the world."
Some say that these mirrors were made for the kohanim (priests) who would come to wash their hands and feet from the washbasin. They would look in the mirrors to see if they had any spot or stain on their vestments. They were then able to make themselves look their best before they performed any Divine service. It is thus written, "Prepare to greet your G-d O Yisrael" (Amos 4:12). This teaches that one must prepare oneself to look his best before prayer or other Divine service, just as he would prepare himself before greeting a king.
Why is the prohibition against doing work on Shabbat written prior to the instruction for building the Mishkan?
35:2 Work shall be done for six weekdays, but the seventh day must be a holy day for you, a Sabbath of Sabbaths to HASHEM. Whoever does any work on it shall be put to death.
Moshe warned the Benei Yisrael that they must keep the Shabbat. They should not think that they were to complete the Mishkan as quickly as possible and that in doing so it was permissible to violate the Shabbat. They had to realize that even in making the Mishkan they were only to work six days. Keeping the Shabbat is a very important thing. Anyone violating it by doing work was to be put to death by stoning.
Moshe began by saying, "These are the things that G-d has commanded you to do." "These are the things" is in the plural, which is difficult to understand; Since the Torah is speaking of the Shabbat, Moshe should have said, "This is the thing," in the singular.
It is impossible to say that the plural "these are the things" includes both the commandment of the Shabbat and the work of the Mishkan. The Torah introduces the work of the Mishkan by saying, "This is the thing that G-d commanded." (35:4) Therefore, when Moshe said, "These are the things," he was speaking about the Shabbat alone. He should have said, "This is the thing," using the singular.
However, Moshe said to the Benei Yisrael, "Do not think that in order to keep the commandment of the Mishkan, to finish it as soon as possible, you are permitted to violate the Shabbat; rather, you must realize, 'These are the things that G-d has commanded you to do.' G-d has commanded you to do two things. You must keep the Shabbat as well as build the Mishkan. It is forbidden to violate the Shabbat for the sake of the Mishkan."
There are 39 categories of work that are forbidden on the Shabbat. Sowing Plowing Reaping Binding sheaves Threshing Winnowing Selecting Grinding Sifting Kneading Baking Shearing wool Washing wool Beating wool Dyeing wool Spinning Weaving Making two loops Weaving two threads Separating two threads Tying Untying Sewing two stitches Tearing Trapping Slaughtering Flaying Salting meat Curing hide Scraping hide Cutting hide up Writing two letters Erasing two letters Building Tearing a building down Extinguishing a fire Kindling a fire Hitting with a hammer Taking an object from the private domain to the public, or transporting an object in the public domain. (Mishnah - Shabbat 7:2)
We derive these categories of work from the types of work needed to make the Mishkan. We see that the commandment regarding the Shabbat comes immediately before the Mishkan. We thus learn that the types of work that were needed to build the Mishkan are precisely the ones that are forbidden on the Shabbat.
Moshe therefore said, "These are the things that G-d has commanded you to do; six days do work... 'These things' refers to the 39 categories of work that I commanded you to do in the Mishkan. These may be done during the six weekdays. On the seventh day however, it is forbidden for you to do them."