Meaningful Repetition by Jacob Reinitz


This week’s Parashah, Parashat VaYakhеil, seems somewhat commonplace and mundane in relation to the Parashiyot that precede it. In VaYakheil (Shemot 38:26), Moshe asks for a Machatzit HaShekel, a half-shekel, from all of Bnei Yisrael to build the Mishkan and its vessels. The Torah describes every painstaking detail involved in the construction of the Mishkan, despite the fact that many of these details have already been mentioned in Parashiyot Tеrumah and Tеtzavеh. What does this seemingly meaningless repetition intend to teach us?

The Sifri (Naso 45) teaches that the Nesi’im, the princes of the tribes of Bnei Yisrael, planned to donate for the cause of the Mishkan only after the community finished giving its funds for the construction of the Mishkan, in order to gift to the Mishkan the items that remained after this initial communal “drive.” However, these princes underestimated Bnei Yisrael’s generosity and enthusiasm, for by the time they stepped in to donate, the only things left were the precious gems needed for the Kohеn Gadol's breastplate and garments. These gems were not readily available in the desert, and so the gift was delayed. As an afterthought, the Gemara (Yoma 75a) derives from the verse “VeHeim Heivi’u Eilav Od Nedavah BaBoker BaBoker,” “And they brought him another gift every day,” that the man, described as also falling “every day” (Shemot 36:3), eventually brought the gems to the camp of Bnei Yisrael, and the princes finally brought these gems as their gift. However, since the princes were remiss in their enthusiasm and efforts to dedicate to the Mishkan, they were punished by having the word “VeHaNеsi’im”, “and the Princes,” written in the Torah without a “Yud” (BeMidbar Rabbah 12:15). Although the value of the princes' gifts surpassed that of all the other gifts, as their gifts offered were the gems, the Nesi’im were still admonished. It was not the cost that counted in this case, for Hashem did not need the Nesi’im to give Him gifts, such as gems, for his Mishkan. Rather, the true gift was the effort and enthusiasm that went into the gifts of the rest of Bnei Yisrael.

It was for this reason that all the gifts were specifically typified as "Asher Yidevenu Libo," “[What each person] donates from the heart” (Shemot 25:2). Had the people been lethargic in granting their gifts to fund the Mishkan, their donations would have been chore-like, which was not the point of this donation from the heart.

Similarly, we see this point expressed in Parashat Pеkudеi (39:33). There, the Torah relates how the components of the Mishkan were brought to Moshе by the people. The Midrash Tanchuma (Pekudei 11) tells us that since Moshe hadn't donated anything to the Mishkan, Hashem wanted to honor him by letting him erect the Mishkan by himself. After comprehending that no human being could raise such a heavy structure by himself, Moshe turned to Hashеm, who told him to just make the effort, and the Mishkan would raise itself up, just as the concluding verse of the section (40:17) says "Hukam HaMishkan” – the Mishkan was erected by an external force, not by Moshe Rabbeinu.

The Torah here teaches this same lesson. Even someone as great as Moshе Rabbeinu did not gain honor in the accomplishment itself, as he did not affect it. The true honor bestowed upon Moshе was the opportunity he was granted to expend effort in erecting the Mishkan, to glorify the process and not the product.

Living in the extremely result-oriented society in which we live, this is an important principle to remember. We desire the rich-tasting cup of coffee without all the grinding and brewing. We strive for a toned physique, yet attempt to get it with the least amount of exertion as possible. We wish that we could accomplish our goals, even spiritual ones, in an easier way, circumventing all the challenges and difficulties inherent to the goal, which is a grave mistake. In Sefer Iyov (5:7), we are made privy to the musing that "Adam LeAmal Yulad," “Man was born for hard work.” The purpose of our existence as human beings is to rise to meet the challenges and difficulties. Without these impediments, the goals themselves would be meaningless, similar to how working a crossword puzzle with all the answers already given is an aimless achievement.

The Torah thus finds it necessary to repeat all the details in the collection of the monies and construction of the Mishkan to inform us that the attitude and drive with which we go about fulfilling all the details is more important than donating all that was required in this case.

Standing in the Shadow of Kedushah by Dr. Joel M. Berman

Rebuilding from Cheit HaEigel by Zachary Ottenstein