Mishkan: An Expression of Mutual Love

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By Rabbi Naftoly Bier

This week’s Parsha, Exodus 25, 2 states “Speak to the Children of Israel and let them take for Me a portion, every man whose heart motivates him, shall take My portion.” In chapter 35, 21 it states, “Every man whose heart inspired him came, and everyone whose spirit motivated him brought the portion of Hashem for the work of the אהל מואד, the Tent of Meeting (Tabernacle).

The Torah emphatically, specifically stresses inspiration, motivation of one’s free will and desire, and also if the gift is not designated as one’s monetary ownership being donated to Hashem’s abode, but rather as one transferring Hashem’s belongings to the Tabernacle.

The Alter from Kelm, HaRav Simcha Zissel Ziv זצוק”ל, quotes the בעל הטורים, that the Jewish people were addressed in a term of פיוס, consolation. The Medrash teaches that the Tabernacle was constructed as a symbol of honor, glory and reconciliation between Hashem and His people, the Torah teaches us the great reward, despite the fact that the ‘wealth’ that the Jewish people had at the time was what was gifted to them by Hashem, especially the booty and treasures by the ים סוף, Reed Sea, nevertheless it is still seen as a supreme מצוה, קל וחומר, surely one who earns their own wealth though arduous labor and effort and shares it will be blessed!

Asks the Alter, if one is given a large treasure, and then one gives ‘some of it’ away, back to the donor, does one deserve acclaim? Does he need to be mollified due to his ‘loss’? If one recognizes that one’s wealth is a gift from Hashem, wouldn’t one with great enthusiasm share it with Hashem? He answers, from here we are apprised of the insanity the יצר הרע impresses a person with. One can intellectually believe that Hashem is the source of all blessing, of all that transpires, but nevertheless credits oneself for being responsible for its ownership, and it is acutely difficult to part with one’s belongings. This is why the Torah specifically states, “Take from My portion,” this is the manner in which Hashem neutralizes the feeling of loss, it’s Mine!

The alter poses another question; we are taught that one who does a Mitzvah, due to being commanded to do so, their action is more meritorious than one who does it voluntarily. Tosfos, Tractate Avodah Zara 3a, explains that one who performs due to being instructed by Hashem, will constantly stress, or agitate to negate their self-interests and selflessly dedicate themselves to do Hashem’s will. If so, why didn’t Hashem demand from us to ‘pay our taxes’ to the Tabernacle?

He answers that at this juncture of history when Hashem was going to ‘reside in our midst’ when we were to be blessed with His Presence among us; in order to create this bond necessitated that we emulate Him in the most profound possible manner.

As the “Tomer Devorah, Dates of the Palm” teaches, the most logical perspective of one’s focus in life is to emulate Hashem, for he empowered us with the potential of human greatness- to be like Him.

The primary manner in which we perceive Hashem is through constantly focusing on all of His benefactions. It therefore follows that that the most profound action that connects us to Him, is to be a benefactor. Therefore, we had to magnanimously dedicate ‘our wealth’ to the construction of the Tabernacle, without any thought of being compensated with a reward  for our actions. This idea is expressed by שלמה המלך, Kind Solomon in שיר השירים, Song of Songs, 3, 9-10. “A Tabernacle for His Presence…silver…gold…purple wool…its midst was decked with implements bespeaking love by the daughters of Jerusalem.”

The מסילת ישרים, Path of the Just, the Ramchal, (Rav Luzatto) in Chapter 18 (the Trait of Saintliness) teaches this concept of love and giving pleasure to Hashem daily.

“It is known which Mitzvos are binding on all of Israel to what extent one is bound by them. However, one who truly loves the Creator will not endeavor and intend to fulfill his obligation which is acknowledged by all of Israel, but will react in very much the same manner as a son who loves his father, who, even if his father gives only a slight indication of desiring something, undertakes to fulfill this desire as completely as he can. And though the father may air his desire only one time, and even then, incompletely, if he can understand by himself what will bring pleasure to his father, he will not wait to be commanded more explicitly or to be told a second time.

We notice at all times between all those who are bound with a love which is truly strong- that the lover will not say ‘I Have not been commanded further. What I have been told to do explicitly is enough for me.’ He will rather attempt to arrive at the intention of the commander ad to do what will give him pleasure. The same holds true for someone who strongly loves his Creator; for he too, is in the class of lovers. The Mitzvos will serve as an indication to him of the will and desire of the Blessed One. He will not say, ‘What has been explicitly stated is enough for me’, to the contrary, he will say ‘Since I have seen that G-d’s despite inclines toward this, I will use it as a sign to extend it into as many areas as a can envisage the Blessed One’s desiring its being extended into.’ Such a man may be called One who gives pleasure to His Creator’.”

One may ask, “Isn’t it possible that one who acts due to their own volition will become arrogant and think, ‘look at me, I am a selfless benefactor’?”

The answer, says Rav Chaim Friedlander זצ”ל, is that when one truly and unequivocally recognizes that all is a gift from Hashem, one recognizes the immense responsibility to share it with others and of course to donate to the Tabernacle. Its only the egoist that is self-absorbed that precludes oneself from this simple idea. A true selfless, magnanimous benefactor takes no credit, other than to dispense what is logical. “ויקחו לי תרומה, and take from Me your gift,” one is only giving to Hashem what is His!”

In this manner in everyday life, when one learns Torah, earns a living, raises children, etc., and views everything as Hashem’s gift, then one is blessed and helped by Hashem, for one has truly partnered with Him! And in turn one can accept all His dictates no matter the hardship, lack of understanding or time to be expended. מיראה בא לידי אהבהת ומאהבה בא לידי יראה.

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