Practical Gifts by Chaim Strauss


           The Parsha describes in great detail how Hashem instructed Bnei Yisrael to build the Mishkan, the portable sanctuary that would accompany the Jews along their journey in the wilderness, and house the Shechina, Hashem’s divine presence.   “Speak to the children of Israel in these words; Of every man whose heart makes him willing, you shall take for me my gift.  And this is the gift which you shall take from them: gold and silver and brass” (25: 2-3).  Why does the Torah use the words “take for me” instead of “give to me”?

Rav Akiva Aiger believes that Hashem felt that the Terumah which every person gives towards the Mishkan needs to be only from every man whose heart makes him willing.  It is only enough if he has a generous heart and good intentions. In addition, the Terumah which should be collected for the Mishkan must be made of gold, silver, and brass.  However, if it is given without the heart, it is considered Bnei Yisrael’s gift and not Hashem’s gift.

The Torat Moshe offers more knowledge on this topic.  He says that in actuality, all the gold and silver on earth belong to Hashem.  As it is written, “Mine is the silver, and Mine the gold.” Therefore, when a person offers these things to Hashem, the gift he gives is not the wealth, because the wealth is not really his to give away, but rather his gift is his willingness to give, and the good intentions that encouraged him to make the offering. These qualities are truly his own.  However, one who does not make his offering of silver and gold in this nature has really given nothing, because the quality of his willingness, which would have been the true gift, is lacking. This is the meaning of the specification “of every man whose heart makes him willing.” Therefore, the Pasuk should be read as, “only from a person who gives willingly and with good intentions, shall you take My offering.”

Terumah is the beginning of the building of the Mishkan, a place where Hashem dwells among the Jews as they traveled in the desert.  To build the Mishkan, Hashem commanded the Jews to collect several types of materials.  After listing all the metals, wools, hairs, skins, and wood that amounted to the thirteen materials that were to be used for the construction of the Mishkan, the Torah tells us that they collected oil for illumination and spices for the anointment of the oil and incense.

                It is only for the oil and spices that an explanation about their use is given.  Why does the Torah suddenly need to tell us what the materials were to be used for, when it hasn’t discussed it thus far?  One possible answer is that there are two differences between the characteristics of the other materials and those of the oil and spices.  First, while the other materials were important, they required no effort in being produced, while the oil and spices had to be produced and maintained.  Those people that did not have the precious stones to donate to Mishkan still had the opportunity to contribute their efforts instead.  Additionally, both the oil and the spices, were the most “giving” used materials used in Mishkan.  The oil was used to light the Menorah, which gives off light to everything around it, and the spices give off a beautiful smell to its surroundings. 

In addition, all of the other materials used to construct the Mishkan were finite.  A set amount of these items were required, on a one-time basis.  Once the Mishkan was completed, there was no further need for them.  The oils and spices, however, were used constantly after the construction of the Mishkan was complete, and the supplies had to be replenished on a regular basis.

Oil represents the Torah.  As oil provides light to the menorah, so does Torah provide light to the Jews.  Spices were used as incense for the sacrificial offerings, which in our time is represented by Tefillah, prayer.  Without oil for the Menorah to light the Mishkan, and spices to promote sacrifices, which at the time were a basic part of worship, the Mishkan, would have been useless.

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