While discussing the Kiyor, the Torah notes that it was wrought, “BeMarot HaTzove’ot Asher Tzave’u Petach Ohel Moeid,” “From the mirrors of the legions who amassed at the entrance of the Ohel Moeid” (Shemot 38:8). What compelled Moshe to create the Kiyor from mirrors?
The Baal Shem Tov explains that the flaws one sees in others are projections of his own faults. Just as a mirror reflects our “uglier” parts, the negative traits we see in others are reflections of our own. The Kohanim’s mandatory ablution in the Kiyor sought to cleanse both physical and spiritual filthiness. The Kiyor’s origin (mirrors) would allow a Kohen to look inside himself and thereby discern if he needed spiritual cleaning by analyzing his perspective on others. This mirror image is a recurring trait in the Baal Shem Tov’s life. Upon seeing a Jew desecrating Shabbat, the Baal Shem Tov became angry with himself, because he understood that in order to warrant seeing such a terrible Aveirah, he must have had a personal connection with that particular sin. He remembered that once he did not vehemently protest when a person was mocking a Torah scholar. Since, as the Zohar states, a Torah scholar embodies Shabbat, the Baal Shem Tov figuratively violated Shabbat; ergo, the Jew’s desecration of Shabbat mirrored his own. Likewise, the Kiyor’s mirrors allow the Kohanim to help themselves, since they were able to improve themselves by analyzing their outlook on others.
Often, many are too quick to critique others. Whether this critique is apt or not, one must realize, in accordance with the Baal Shem Tov’s lesson, that this criticism might mirror his own character, which should make him think twice before hypocritically berating someone else.