Two Modes of Religious Observance by Eliezer Stavsky


Here at last!  We have finally finished the Parshiot of Terumah, Tetzaveh, Vayakhel and Pekudei, which labor over a miscellany of details and measurements concerning the Mishkan, a structure that will never be rebuilt.  But alas, much to the readers’ dismay, we encounter Parshiot Vayikra and Tzav, which present a litany of rather obscure procedures.

Oftentimes, we find ourselves skimming the surface of the text, never penetrating beneath the simple meaning of the words.  Such an attitude is not befitting for the Torah, our guidebook, which, as Chazal commented on the Pasuk “Ki Lo Davar Reik Hu Mikem” (Devarim 32:47), is comprised of only relevant and significant information, from which we can extract valuable insights and lessons.  Therefore, I would like to present one idea that emerges from a close reading of these Parshiot, which will hopefully heighten our appreciation for and understanding of these Parshiot. 

In the beginning of Parshat Terumah and in the beginning of Parshat Ki Tisa, God speaks to Moshe concerning the collection of materials for the construction of the Mishkan.  In Terumah, the method of collection is that of Nedavah, voluntary giving, “Kol…Asher Yidvenu Libo” (Shemot 25:2), and all materials, ranging from blue wool to gold, are collected.  However, in Ki Tisa, the collection is not voluntary, but forced, and only silver is collected.

Let us analyze these two methods of collecting funds.  The first, that of Terumah, allows the individual to donate as much as he wants, without pressure, willingly.  The second, that of Ki Tisa, forces the individual to donate, and thus its negative element is that there is coercion.  However, it does have a positive element not present in the Terumah method, namely that each person is equal, as each person gives the same amount to the Mishkan.  No one has a greater share; there is no Stavsky Wing of the Mishkan.

These two methods seem fundamentally contradictory and mutually exclusive.  If it is voluntary, then it cannot be that each person gives an equal amount.  How does the Torah deal with this contradiction?  How can they coexist?

Rav Yoel Bin Nun extended this discussion from the context of the Mishkan to that of religious observance.  There are two ways in which service of God could have been prescribed.  On the one hand, it could be that each Jew is forced to do certain Mitzvot in a set, inflexible fashion.  There is no room for a Jew to decide to worship God in the way he chooses.  On the other hand, it could be that voluntary worship, where one goes beyond that which is demanded, is primary and decides the way in which he serves God.  The benefits and problems of each are obvious.  One need not look farther than Tefillah and how it is treated by many people to see the negative effect of the first method of worship, that of prescribed and predefined service “forced” upon the individual.

The Torah tells us its opinion regarding this issue.  In Pekudei, when Moshe tallies up the exact amount of each material collected, a fascinating solution emerges.  The only two parts of the Mishkan that were made from silver were the 100 Adanim, sockets, and the Lulaot, hooks.  Surprisingly, the only silver that was collected from the people was from the half-Shekel mentioned in Ki Tisa. (Proof: there were 603,500 people who gave the half-Shekel.  This would bring in 301,775 Shekalim.  1,775 Shekalim were used for the hooks, and 300,000 were used for the Adanim, as per Parshat Pekudei.)  All of the other materials, such as the Techelet, Argaman and Zahav, were collected from the voluntary donations of Parshat Terumah. 

Based on this, we can resolve the contradiction.  The sockets were the base, the foundation, of the Mishkan; the hooks were the last objects placed in the Mishkan.  Everything else, the walls and vessels, were not made of silver.  Thus, in the context of forced donation, one can have free-willed, voluntary donation.  In the context of the silver collected by the half-shekel in Ki Tisa (the sockets at the base, and the hooks at the top), we have the other materials collected as Nedavah.  (Note that the Torah first discusses the free-willed donation and only later mentions the half-Shekel contribution.)

One can further suggest that in the context and framework of mandatory religious observance, there is room for individual initiative in the service of God.  When one is firmly rooted in that which is strictly mandated, one’s relationship can take on the nature of “Kol Asher Yidvenu Libo.”  Regarding Tefillah (the Amidah), the first three Berachot and the last three Berachot serve as the frame, and the middle thirteen Berachot can and perhaps should (see Orach Chaim 119) take on the character of free-willed, individually inspired prayer.

Lest one think that this idea is forced and not supported by the text, let us examine the structure of the Korbanot in Parshat Vayikra, our Parsha, in which the exact same issue is presented with the exact same solution.  Here, too, the Torah first presents the Korbanot which are voluntary, those of Neder and Nedavah.  Only later, in Parshat Tzav, does the Torah present the daily mandatory Korbanot, the Temidim.  In fact, the first and last Korbanot brought in the Beit Hamikdash each day were the Temidim, the Tamid Shel Shachar and Tamid Shel Bein Haarbayim.  Every Korban brought between the two mandatory Korbanot was voluntary.  Here, too, we see that voluntary service is appropriate when framed by mandatory worship of God.

A Korban of Energy by Chanan Strassman

A Little Bit Counts by Dr. Joel M. Berman