Because They Wanted To by Rabbi Avi Pollak


Parshiyot Terumah and Tetzaveh record a very detailed list of what Hashem had in mind for the Mishkan.  Parashat VaYakheil, in turn, relates that Klal Yisrael followed through with their responsibilities and donated all that was needed to fulfill God’s command.  However, the fact that our Parasha repeats the requirements of the Mishkan’s construction in such great detail seems difficult.

In addition, when our Pesukim describe the donations offered by Klal Yisrael, there appear to be contradictory implications as to what God expected from the people.  On the one hand, Moshe commands the Jewish people, “Kechu MeiItechem,” “Take from yourselves,” implying required donation.  On the other hand, the Pesukim describe the act of donating as “Nedivat Leiv,” “generosity of the heart,” and “Nesiut Leiv,” “inspiration of the heart,” hardly terms that imply a sense of forced giving.

Regarding the latter issue, the Meforshim offer a variety of explanations.  The Seforno suggests that the Pesukim are describing two types of donations – the basic, required donation for each person, described in harsher terms, and the generous additional donation which was described as inspiration of the heart.  Other Meforshim feel that our Pesukim are describing different types of people; some people were naturally generous and gave freely and gladly, and others were naturally stingy who gave despite their inclination not to do so.

A common thread throughout the insights of the Meforshim is that the Pesukim are teaching us that to a great extent (though not entirely), the funding of money and resources for the Mishkan was an act of generosity and inspired commitment by Klal Yisrael.

This is remarkable when we consider the significance of the Mishkan in the context of what occurred just before its construction.  As we know, the Meforshim debate whether the commandment to build the Mishkan came before or after the Cheit HaEigel.  If we assume (like Rashi) that the command to build the Mishkan came after the Cheit HaEigel, and its construction was intended as a way to attain Kapparah for this sin, we might have expected Klal Yisrael to express some defensiveness or reluctance to give.  We certainly would not expect them to jump into this giving opportunity - which highlights their shortcomings - with zeal and generosity.

Yet that is exactly what Klal Yisrael did.  They gave of their resources and talents, stopping only when Moshe explicitly ordered them to do so (Shemot 36:6).  Some were able to express their remorse over the Cheit HaEigel and give to the Mishkan with ease, while some had more difficulty.  Some gave only what they were required to give; many gave much more.  But no one clung to his sinful ways and refused to participate at all.  Klal Yisrael did Teshuva, attained Kapparah and was able to move ahead in fulfillment of its destiny to inherit Eretz Yisrael and build a society based on Torah and Avodat Hashem.

Perhaps this is why the Torah repeats how Klal Yisrael fulfilled every detailed requirement of Binyan HaMikdash and so much more.  Hashem wished to highlight Klal Yisrael’s willingness to proceed with a remarkably positive and generous spirit. We all may sin, but what matters most is how we respond.  The measure of a great person is not whether or not he falls, but whether or not he gets up after a fall.  In this case, Klal Yisrael showed their moral fortitude in moving ahead and refusing to be bogged down by the Cheit HaEigel.

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