…the women who served…

I’ve always wondered about these ladies mentioned in Exodus 38.8:

He made the basin of bronze with its stand of bronze, from the mirrors of the women who served at the entrance to the tent of meeting.

What did they do? Do we have here a stratum of female functionaries associated with Tabernacle and Temple? (And no, I don’t think they were merely temple prostitutes, as if the only possible religious value of a woman is as a sacred whore!) Why do none of the usual suspects mention them? (Nor do I think it’s just because they were men!) Would such have existed even in Herodian times? Does anyone know of any mention of them in rabbinic sources?

And last, but not least, why did they have so many mirrors…?

3 Replies to “…the women who served…”

  1. don’t have much light to shed on your questions, especially the one about the mirrors! But I briefly touched upon that subject about 3/4 of the way through an essay I posted online.

    Thanks for starting your new blog! I plan to stop by regularly.

  2. Don’t know if this type of approach is one you’re interested in, but here goes:

    “You find that when Israel were in harsh labor in Egypt, Pharaoh decreed against them that they should not sleep at home nor have relations with their wives. Said Rabbi Shimeon bar Chalafta, ‘What did the daughters of Israel do?’ They would go down to draw water from the river, and God would prepare for them little fish in their buckets. And they would sell some of them, and cook some of them, and buy wine with the proceeds, and go to the field and feed their husbands. And when they had eaten and drunk, the women would take the mirrors and look into them with their husbands, and she would say, ‘I am more comely than you,’ and he would say, ‘I am more comely than you.’ And as a result, they would accustom themselves to desire, and they were fruitful and multiplied, and God took note of them immediately. Some of our sages said they bore two children at a time, others said they bore 12 at a time, and still others said 600,000. ? And all these numbers from the mirrors. ? In the merit of those mirrors which they showed their husbands to accustom them to desire, from the midst of the harsh labor, they raised up all the hosts.”

    copy/pasted from here

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