Many of us are familiar with the idea that Hashem’s purpose in commanding Bnei Yisrael in the Mitzvah of building the Mishkan was to show them His complete forgiveness for the Cheit HaEigel. We may not realize, however, that the recording of the Mishkan’s construction is also meant to praise the Jewish people. As R. Meir Leibush (Malbim) explains, the Tabernacle is called the “Mishkan HaEidut,” “dwelling of the Testimony” (Shemot 38:21) because it testifies to the proper use of vast amounts gold and other materials. The Torah delineates how every vessel is made in order to account for the large donations given by Bnei Yisrael, and concludes by relating that “UChevod Hashem Malei Et HaMishkan,” “the glory of Hashem filled the Mishkan” (40:34). Surely God would never reside in a place mired in corruption, thus guaranteeing us that no contribution was misappropriated among all of the construction.
In fact, the verse states that Moshe, as well as Itamar, son of Aharon, supervised the assembly of the Mishkan (38:21). Moshe’s credibility was strong enough for him to be trusted to manage the operation on his own, but he sought Itamar so as to comport with the ruling brought down in the Midrash Rabbah (Shemot Rabbah 51:1) that matters of communal funds must be handled by two trustees to ensure that individuals’ monetary benefactions are allocated honestly and not pocketed by anyone. After using their jewelry to perpetuate immorality in last week’s Parashah by creating a golden calf, the Jewish people completely reversed tack and selflessly dedicated their personal wealth to a holy enterprise.
The idea of charity being spiritually elevating finds meaning in a story of Reb Chaim of Volozhin that tells of one of his visits to the city of Minsk. He came to Minsk to raise funds for his Yeshiva and stayed at the house of one of the trustees for the town’s Tzedakah funds, Reb Yaakov. Reb Yaakov offered to collect whatever amount Reb Chaim needed for his Yeshiva, and after a month, presented the large sum, four thousand rubles, to Reb Chaim. Reb Chaim thanked Reb Yaakov and left Minsk, and only later found out that the four thousand rubles all came out of Reb Yaakov’s personal bank account. When questioned by the Rav of why he hesitated for a month to give money that he possessed from day one, Reb Yaakov answered that he spent the month battling his Yeitzer HaRa over whether he should give his money to charity. With Hashem’s help, he said, he triumphed over his evil inclinations and committed a great act of Chesed.
Reb Chaim’s story illustrates the power of giving Tzedakah. Through giving so much of his own money to a charitable cause, Reb Yaakov not only helped fuel Talmud Torah in Reb Chaim’s Yeshiva, he also bolstered his willpower to do Chesed by refusing his Yeitzer HaRa’s excuses for why he should not donate his money. Such an accomplishment not only fosters a greater spiritual sensitivity and a closer connection to HaKadosh Baruch Hu, but it also at the same time helps others in their plight. Tzedakah is a Mitzvah often overlooked, but it is imperative that we reevaluate our current efforts in fulfilling this Mitzvah in accordance with the underlying message of this Parashah--it is worth the exercise both for us and for our communities.