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Why did Moshe Rabbeinu balk when the women wanted to donate their mirrors to the construction of the Mishkan (Rashi, Shemot 38:8), but not when the women donated their kumaz (Shemot 35:22), which were a piece of jewelry worn in the nether regions of the body (Rashi)?

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I suddenly realize that the kumaz may be no more objectionable than a piece of jewelry worn anywhere else on the body, given that it is forbidden for men to gaze at any of piece of jewelry. –  Chanoch Aug 26 '12 at 3:34
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2 Answers 2

up vote 11 down vote accepted

Ramban on this verse says that the difference is that the gold from the kumazes was mixed with the rest of the gold, whereas the kiyor was made only from these mirrors, without any admixture of anything else.

Moshav Zekeinim (a collection of commentaries from the schools of Tosafos) takes a slightly different tack: the kumazes were melted down and so were no longer identifiable, whereas the mirrors were affixed to the kiyor as they were (perhaps, although they don't say so, somewhat like the fire pans used to plate the altar, Num. 17:3-4).

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Alex, and @Chanoch, acc. to Alex's sources, the question can be expanded to all the women's jewelry mentioned in the pasuk. In fact, if not for the Moshav Zekainim, I would have said kumaz was less of an issue since it was a chastity piece. –  YDK Mar 26 '12 at 16:50
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I understood it as a chastity belt of sorts. This would seem (IMHO) to be the exact opposite purpose of what the mirrors were used for (mirrors strengthen the Yetzer HaRa', in contradistinction to the purpose of the Kumaz, which is to fight off the Yetzer HaRa').

Similarly, according to this related essay in What's Bothering Rashi, RaMBa"N discusses the subject and states that the mirrors were rejected because they are "used for the Yetzer HaRa". (Unfortunately I just can't find it in the RaMBa"N; the cited source is incorrect.)

A quick, cursory Google search turns up some interesting questions about the strangeness of it and the conjugation of the verse, but very little substance about what it actually is.

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Both of the references on that page in WBR are supposed to be to Ex. 38:8 rather than 31:50. (The Ramban he mentions is the one that I cited in my answer.) About the kumaz having possibly been a chastity belt (R. Aryeh Kaplan cites several commentaries who say so), presumably Ramban wouldn't agree, since he cites the Gemara (Shabbos 64a) that understands it as "an object that leads to laughter" and as a portmanteau of כאן מקום זימה - i.e., it's meant to call attention to that area rather than to prevent access. –  Alex Mar 26 '12 at 20:07
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