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Parshas Ki Sisa

The Heart of the Mishkan
Rabbi Yosef Levinson

In this week's Parsha, the Torah continues to discuss the Mishkan. The Torah devotes four and a half parshios to the Mishkan. All the necessary materials, Keilim and the actual structure of the Mishkan are listed and discussed in great detail, and then repeated again when the Bnei Yisrael constructed and assembled it. Rabbi Miller writes that the Torah devotes more space to the Mishkan than any other subject. What are we to learn from this?

The passuk states "zeh yitnu" - they should give this. Rashi writes that Hashem showed Moshe Rabbeinu a shekel of fire. Hashem pointed to this coin of fire and told Moshe that this is the coin that the Jewish people should give. The Midrash states, that Moshe had difficulty understanding the mitzva of the machatzis hashekel, donating a half shekel coin for the Mishkan. Therefore Hashem showed him this fiery coin.

What did Moshe Rabbeinu find so hard to grasp about giving the machatzis hashekel? And what purpose did the revelation of a shekel of fire serve?

Hashem asks of us: "V'asu li Mikdash" - And make for Me a holy place. The passuk does not say make Me a place and I will make it holy. Rather, it says you should make for Me a holy place. Once we sanctify the Mikdash, then, "V'Shachanti b'socham" - I will dwell in your midst. How is it possible for basar v'dam, humans of flesh and blood, to draw the Shechina HaKedosha from the Heavens down to Earth? This is exactly what was troubling Moshe Rabbeinu.

The Megillas Sesarim (authored by the Nesivos HaMishpat) explains that it was the love displayed by the Bnei Yisrael for Hashem that brought the Shechina down to this world. This is what Hashem revealed to Moshe; the fiery shekel represents the love that burns within us for the Ribbono Shel Olam (see Shir HaShirim 8:6; and 3:10 with Tzror HaMor). By donating towards the Mishkan with nedivas halev, (generous heart) we cause Hashem to reside amongst us.

In Parshas Teruma, the Torah lists all the materials that were required to construct the Mishkan. Interestingly, although the avnei shoham and avnei melu'im, the precious gems for the ephod and choshen (breastplate) were by far the most valuable of all the items listed, they are the last to be mentioned.

The Or HaChaim offers two explanations. First, he writes that all the other donations came with a tremendous sacrifice. People toiled hard to acquire what they had. On the other hand, the Gemara relates (Yoma 75a) that the precious stones fell with the man, there was no effort on the part of the Nesi'im (princes of the tribes). It is very difficult for one to part with something that they acquired through a great deal of toil. The Gemara (Bava Metzia 38a) observes that one would rather have one measure of the produce of their own field than nine measures of someone else's. Even if eighty-nine percent of their fruit would spoil, nevertheless, one prefers the remaining eleven percent of their own than having the entire crop from someone else's field. When one then goes ahead and donates his earnings, this shows his love for the recipient of his kindness. Therefore all the other donations demonstrate a deep love for Hashem, the necessary ingredient to bring the Shechina down. The Torah lists the materials according to the nedivas halev that was displayed by the donors and not by the value of the gift.

The Or HaChaim ofers another explanation. The Nesi'im were the last to bring a gift for the Mishkan. Hashem showed his displeasure with their donation by mentioning it last. Similarly, the word Nesi'im is written without a yud when the Torah mentions their gift.

Why did the Nesi'im wait til everyone else brought their contributions before bringing their own? Rashi explains that the Nesi'im said that they could really donate all the funds and materials required for the Mishkan, but this would deprive others of the opportunity to share in the mitzva. Therefore, they reasoned, they would let everyone else give first and then they would contribute everything that was lacking. However, everyone else gave so generously that nothing was lacking besides the avnei shoham and avnei melu'im. This was all the Nesi'im could donate. Rav Chaim Shmulevitz points out that the intentions of the Nesi'im were very noble. He questions why the Torah would look askance at their actions (See Sichos Mussar Ma'amar 9, 5731 and Ma'amar 22 , 5732).

He explains that their logic was indeed sound. The reason that they were taken to task however was for calculating and postponing their contribution. One who has true nedivas halev, runs at the first opportunity to serve Hashem. The fact that they did not reveals a small lack of nedivas halev on their part. They should have rushed foward to give something. Moshe would surely have told them if they were being too generous.

Rav Chaim Shmulevitz concludes that Hashem wants to dwell in the midst of each and every Jew. When we learn Torah for the sake of Hashem and we display nedivas halev, then we will merit to be a Mishkan for Hashem.

Daf Hashavua Kollel Beth HaTalmud Copyright (c) 2002 by Rabbi Yosef Levinson

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