In this week’s reading, the Jewish nation is commanded to give the materials necessary to construct the Mishkan, the Tabernacle, and all the items within it. Unlike the annual contribution of a half-Shekel to the continuing operations of the Tabernacle and Temple, the amount of donations is not specified. On the contrary, it was up to the generosity of each individual.
The Medrash tells us that when G-d said to Moshe, “Let them make Me a Sanctuary, and I will dwell among them” [Ex. 25:8], Moshe thought this inconceivable. How could G-d, Who Created and fills the entire universe, “dwell” in a small building? Yet G-d said to him that He, G-d, would not even fill the Mishkan, but rest between the rods of the Aron, the Holy Ark. So the goal could be achieved, but required generous individuals to step forward.
And everyone did.
This trait of kindness and generosity was part of what set Abraham apart, and something which HaShem wanted to be still more firmly ingrained in every member of the Jewish people. Indeed we learn later, in the Torah portion of Vayakhel [36:5-7], that they brought enough, and more than enough!
There are different varieties of generosity. The commentary Osiyos D’Rebbe Akiva makes a comparison to the gold, silver and copper donated to the Tabernacle. When everything is going well and a person is generous, that is compared to gold. When a person is sick and needs G-d’s help, his donation is compared to silver. And if he only gives when the metaphorical noose is already on his neck, then it is compared to copper. Even so, every donation of every type is valuable!
One motivation, of course, is gratitude. The Jews gave in the desert not merely because the Tabernacle would glorify G-d, but also because it showed recognition of all the wonders He had done for them in taking them from Egypt. In that case, the Mitzvah is not only kindness and charity, but acknowledgment of what others have done for us!
In that vein, I cannot resist a small plug for our raffle, which, should you enter now, offers you a chance to win a Megillas Esther, as well as a grand prize of $100,000. I hope that if you enjoy the Torah provided to you by Torah.org each week, you will enter with your generous gift!
As always, we welcome your comments.
Rabbi Yaakov Menken
Director, Project Genesis – Torah.org