| Parshah |

Metal Medals

Why the Mishkan was created from these three metals


“And this is the donation that you should take from them: gold, silver, and copper.” (Shemos 25:3)


he Midrash compares these three metals to our forefathers. Avraham was gold, as he was tested in the fiery furnace like gold. Silver represents Yitzchak, who was purified on the mizbeiach. And copper is Yaakov, as Lavan said to Yaakov (Bereishis 30:27), “Nichashti [from the root “nechoshes - copper”] —  I have divined that Hashem has blessed me for your sake.” (Rav Shimon Schwab, Maayan Bais Hashoevah)

The sheva brachos speaker was waxing poetic as he raved about the maalos of the chassan and kallah. To hear him tell it, both homes must have glowed from kedushah when the chassan and kallah were born. That clearly made this shidduch invei hagefen v’invei hagefen.

I squirmed uncomfortably on the hard plastic chair. It wasn’t just the length of the speech that was getting to me. Let’s just say I’d had a particularly hard week, and I doubted anyone would be writing about me in a future Artscroll biography.

As the speaker wove a complex gematria involving shleimus plus the names of the chassan and kallah minus yetzer hara, which they both obviously didn’t have, an involuntary sigh escaped me.

Gold in its natural state has brightness and beauty with little impurities. But silver must be cleaned from dross so that its full beauty can be appreciated. Copper appears simple at first glance, but when buffed and shined, it glows as brightly as gold.  

Sheva brachos aside, it seems that there are those who are gold, born with the proverbial Shas in their mouths, spouting tzidkus and middos tovos with every word.

Then there are those silver souls, those who experience a mind-blowing, Lifelines-worthy, pivotal moment and then go on to inspire the next millennium of neshamos.

And then there’s me. Copper? Tarnished or polished? I don’t remember much of the speeches at my own sheva brachos; they all centered on my parents and in-laws, who are very deserving of praise. Of the kallah, I can’t recall. Neither have I been featured recently in any earth-shattering chizuk headlines, despite my brother’s belief that I’m hiding behind every penname imaginable.

What gematria can you make with Mommy plus housewife, subtracting points for getting upset when Yitzi painted the tiles with blue toothpaste?

So too our Avos.  Avraham was perceived as “shinier” than the other Forefathers—the whole world recognized his greatness and paid him homage. Yitzchak did not merit this glory immediately.  Only after he was purified by the Akeidah was his body elevated to the holy state of a korban.

Yaakov suffered many tzaros and exiles, which obscured his greatness.  Even in the passuk cited above, Lavan wasn’t attributing Yaakov’s success to his righteousness, but to his good luck.  It was only in Yaakov’s later years, after he’d withstood the “buffing” and “shining,” that his greatness was revealed to the world. 

Klal Yisrael contains all three of these types of people. That’s why the Mishkan was created from these three metals.

As the speaker finally took his seat, a memory flashed into my mind. My mother-in-law a”h was a great fan of flea markets. I’d often accompany her as she searched for bargains.

Once, I wandered over to an artisan’s display.  The proprietor was smoking a Turkish cigar, and the smell brought the aroma of the shuk right there to Long Island.

“Mah shlomech, geveret?” The owner stroked his thick mustache. His nationality was no surprise, but his wares caught my interest. His stand featured handiwork that incorporated metals of every kind. There were hat racks and ashtrays, a looming sculpture of the Statue of Liberty, and a full set of cutlery.

But it was the Kosel, leaning against one counter, that caught my eye. Crafted from shining bits of copper, the colors ranged from deep red to shiny gold, as if the setting sun was casting its rays upon the ancient stones. I’m not an artsy type of person, but this piece stole my heart.

“Yafeh, lo? But it’s not for sale.” He stroked a burly hand over the shining piece. “I made this one day when I was homesick. And when I made it, I knew it had to be copper. Only copper can capture my Kotel.”

As I rejoined my mother-in-law, his words echoed in my ears. Being copper is no cop-out. It’s a way for me to shine in my own way.

(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 682)

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