The Harmony of the Mishkan by Doniel Sherman


Parashat VaYakheil is loosely divided into two sections, the first dealing with Bnei Yisrael donating the materials for the building of the Mishkan and the second describing the actual building of the Mishkan.   Only the first, though, details the method through which communal harmony can be achieved.  It is, as the section demonstrates, through the collective compilation of everybody’s strengths and talents, however impressive or miniscule, that one can feel comfortable in his or her surroundings. 

For the Mishkan to be built, vast quantities of natural resources and large amounts of manual labor were needed.  So Moshe told Bnei Yisrael that “Kol Nediv Libo,” “everyone who is generous of heart” (Shemot 35:5) should donate a portion of what he or she had as a gift to Hashem.  Moshe’s statement is gender-neutral – both men and women participated.  The Pesukim then go on to detail what exactly was needed for the Mishkan.  The first things detailed are tangible items, subdivided into three groups listed in ascending value.   The first group of requested material donations was gold, silver, and copper: three metals that, while valuable, had been reasonably abundant among Bnei Yisrael since their exodus from Egypt.  The second group contained valuables that were less ubiquitous: turquoise-, purple-, and scarlet-dyed wools; linens, animal skins, and pelts; woods, oils, and spices.  As such, only wealthier individuals would have been able to donate them.  Finally, the last group, the precious stones for the Kohen Gadol’s breastplate and shoulder plates, is listed; only the wealthiest individuals among the nation would have been able to donate them.  The list was designed and ordered so that it was applicable to everyone; each person was able to donate some goods to the Mishkan, thereby allowing everyone to be a partner in the creation of Hashem’s house.

The list doesn’t stop at that point, though.  Moshe explained that not only were materials needed to build the Mishkan, but labor and craftsmanship were needed as well.  Every “Chacham Leiv,” “wise-hearted person” (35:10), should make the items required for the Mishkan.  The Ibn Ezra explains that “wise-hearted people” refers to anyone who can excel at a trade.  Moshe continued to specify every item that needed to be created in the Mishkan.  In fact, this list is longer than the list of goods that were requested.  Moshe could easily have said, “Craftspeople are needed to form the donated goods into the vessels of the Mishkan.”  His specification of every item whose creation needed craftspeople demonstrated that the value of the labor was equal to, if not greater than, the value of the donation.   Moshe thereby did his best to create harmony within Bnei Yisrael by allowing every person to join in the process of building the house of Hashem: both men and women, both skilled and unskilled, both affluent and poor.

But to appreciate Moshe’s success in creating harmony within Bnei Yisrael, it is necessary to see Bnei Yisrael’s reaction.  In fact, their response to the request was overwhelmingly positive.  “VaYavo’u HaAnashim Al HaNashim,” “The men came with the women” (35:22) to donate jewelry.  Every man who had the valuables enumerated in the above list brought them.  Every “Ishah Chachemat Leiv,” “wise-hearted woman” (35:25) spun the wool and linen with her hands.  Every “Ish Chacham Leiv,” “wise-hearted man” (36:1) was called upon to build the sanctuary.  In other words, everyone’s strengths were utilized.  All who had money donated, and all the men and women who had skills were a part of the creation of the Mishkan.  And the remarkable aspect of Bnei Yisrael’s donation of money and labor is that they gave more than was asked.  Clearly, Moshe was successful in his request that Bnei Yisrael donate.  Overall, Moshe was immensely successful in bringing Bnei Yisrael together and in creating harmony within the nation.

It is also important for each of us to recognize that each individual’s different strengths must be utilized to their full potential.  Everyone has so much to contribute in this world if given the proper opportunity.  The crème de la crème sometimes outshine the rest of the group.  However, the rest of the group is so valuable that it can contribute as much, if not more, than the elite.  May we all internalize Moshe’s lesson of utilizing every person’s capabilities, thereby meriting a more harmonious society and a speedy coming of the Mashiach.

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