Back to Parsha homepage Peninim on the Torah Previous issues
Rabbi A. Leib Scheinbaum
Hebrew Academy of Cleveland

Parshas Vayakel

"Moshe commanded that they proclaim throughout the camp, saying, 'Man and woman shall do no more work towards the gift of the Sanctuary' and the people were restrained from bringing." (36:6)

Why did the people cease to bring donations for the Mishkan? The command was only that the people should stop building the Mishkan. Who mentioned money? Rav Shalom, the Admor M'Belz, zl, suggests a practical explanation. When people are involved in a davar she'bikdushah, holy endeavor, the spirit of sanctity and the desire to give more and more tzeddakah is overwhelming. As long as one is engaged, the mitzvah captivates him, inspiring him to contribute time, effort and money towards achieving its goal. Indeed, it is highly unlikely that one who is totally involved in a Torah endeavor will refrain from contributing toward it. Only when the work stops, when he is no longer under the influence of the mitzvah, when he is not suffused in the sanctity of the endeavor will he likewise refrain from contributing toward it. Moshe told the people to stop working. This led to the end of the donations.

We may derive a significant lesson from this pasuk. In order to encourage people to contribute towards a holy cause, we must first involve them in it. Through their involvement, they will become inspired by the sanctity of the endeavor. People donate when they have a personal investment in a project. They contribute when they have a sensitivity toward a given endeavor or institution. They must feel they are a part of it, stimulated by its effect. One who is alienated from an organization -- either in a philosophic sense or in an active manner-- will not maintain a financial involvement.

"The princes brought the Shoham stones and the stones for the settings for the Eiphod and the Choshen." (35:27)

As soon as the nesiim heard that Hashem had commanded Moshe to build a Mishkan, they offered to supply all of the materials necessary for constructing this edifice. They believed that Hashem would rather repose in a Mishkan built of their donations than one constructed with the gifts of Klal Yisrael. First, they were not involved in the sin of the Golden Calf, as the other Jews were. Second, their motivation was pure and unblemished; they would contribute with a pure heart since they were outstanding in their wisdom and character. They believed that a Mishkan built with their contributions would possess greater spiritual distinction.

Moshe told them, however, that Hashem sought the donations of all Jews, not merely a select group. They replied that rather than donate together with Klal Yisrael, they would supply whatever would be lacking at the end. They reasoned that if they were the ones who completed the Mishkan, Hashem would view it as if they had built the entire edifice.

The nesiim erred in underestimating Bnei Yisrael. The Jews all came forward to share en masse in this mitzvah. Alas, there was nothing left for the nesiim to do. The Torah, therefore, omits the letter "yud" from the word as an indication of the nesiim's failure to participate in the building of the Mishkan. The nesiim contributed by donating the precious stones for the Eiphod and Choshen as sign of their contribution.

After all is said and done, the nesiim were criticized for indolence on their part. Is this correct? The Midrash clearly says that whatever they did or did not do, it was with a cheshbon, calculation. Their intent was l'shem Shomayim, for the sake of Heaven, to provide whatever would be missing. Is that a reason that a letter should eternally be missing from their name?

The Brisker Rav, zl, inferred from this concept that when there is a mitzvah to perform, one must act and not consider any cheshbonos. One's concern should be with the mitzvah at hand and not personal -- or even communal -- interests and calculations. Although the nesiim's objective was to make a more spiritually "correct" Mishkan, when Hashem commands us to perform a mitzvah, we should act and determine cheshbonos later.

Horav Reuven Grozovsky, zl, takes a slightly different approach towards explaining this Midrash. The Jew's focus in this world is to perfect himself, not find what is "missing" in this world and work towards alienating that deficit. When it involves one's own development, one should not waste time. Rather, he should confront the challenge and perform mitzvos. Alacrity is an integral component of mitzvah performance. When Hashem commanded Bnei Yisrael concerning the construction of the Mishkan, the underlying purpose was not the actual edifice. Hashem does not need buildings, and surely He does not require our assistance in constructing them. The Mishkan was to serve as a medium for the individual Jew's self-development. It availed each person the opportunity to demonstrate his true conviction and readiness to serve the Almighty. The nesiim, regrettably, demonstrated a vestige of indolence. Unfortunately, this shortcoming on their part effected the loss of the letter from their name, implying a blemish in their spiritual character.

In support of his thesis, Horav Grosovsky cites Tosfos in the Talmud Shavuos 3a they posit that if the opportunity presents itself for one to perform a mitzvah at the expense of overriding a negative commandment, he should perform the mitzvah. The halachah clearly states "Asei docheh lo sa'asei," one should give precedence a positive commandment over a negative commandment.

One may not delay performing the mitzvah by waiting for a time in which a negative commandment will not be obstacle. One must perform the mitzvah immediately, without reservation, leaving the cheshbonos up to the Almighty.

Horav Shneur Kotler, zl, questions the sequence of the command to construct the Mishkan. First, Hashem tells the Jews to contribute willingly. The Torah places emphasis upon each individual contributing according to his heart's desire. Only after the Torah stresses the nedivus ha'lev, free will contribution, does it state the "purpose" of this contribution. "And they shall make for Me a Sanctuary." Should the Torah not have first mentioned the goal - the Mishkan - and only afterward the medium for creating it - the contributions? This formulation implies, claims Horav Kotler, that the free-will contribution was an essential part of the entire plan. Hashem did not simply desire a Mishkan. He sought the nedivus ha'lev of the Jews.

Thus, we see that the "value" of the Mishkan, its character, was commensurate with each donor's nedivus ha'lev and personal commitment. Each person's donation created a "mishkan" which was the "size" of his free will and conviction. Some had larger portions than others. One thing was certain, however. The Mishkan was missing nothing. A small donation created a "small" Mishkan, while a large open-hearted donation created a "larger" Mishkan. The size of the Mishkan was commensurate with the free-will of the contribution. Hence, the nesiim's stipulation that they would supply whatever was missing was not valid, inasmuch as nothing was missing! A lesser contribution resulted in a smaller Mishkan, a complete Mishkan, albeit a smaller one. The critique against the nesiim was simple. Had they donated towards the Mishkan, the Mishkan would have been larger. Now that they waited until the end, the Mishkan's size was "stunted" accordingly.

"Every man and woman whose heart motivated them to bring... the Bnei Yisrael brought a free-willed offering to Hashem." (35:29)

This pasuk seems ambiguous. It begins by stating that every man and woman contributed toward the Mishkan and ends by saying that all Bnei Yisrael contributed. Why is there a change in the text? Does the Torah seek to convey a secret message? Horav Gavriel Ze'ev Margolis, zl, suggests that the Torah implies a fundamental lesson for parents. If we want our children to grow up as committed Jews, we must train them as such. Being an observant Jew is no different than any other endeavor - it takes training. What better time to educate a person than when he is young? Shlomo Ha'Melech states in Mishlei 22:6, "Educate a child according to his way, so that when he grows old he will not turn away from it." To infuse a child in the mitzvah of tzeddakah, a parent should model the mitzvah and require him to participate actively in the mitzvah.

Bnei Yisrael did not come alone with their contributions. They sent their children to bring the money to Moshe. They realized that only through such training will their children continue along the same path.

"See Hashem has proclaimed by name Betzalel son of Uri, son of Chur, of the tribe of Yehudah." (35:30)

Chur protested the creation of the Golden Calf; he was killed. One might think that his ill-fated protest accomplished nothing. Had he been quiet, he would have remained alive. This has always been the excuse of those who choose the path of indifference. They shy away from any controversy, regardless of how it demeans the Torah and its adherents. Horav Elyakim Schlesinger, Shlita, cites the Midrash which states that Betzalel was selected as chief artisan of the Mishkan specifically because his grandfather, Chur, sacrificed his life for Torah ideals. This is the underlying meaning of the word, "See." Take a close look at the reward for standing up for that which you believe. "See" how Hashem takes into account everyone's actions on behalf of what is right. Regardless of one's prospects for success, he should do everything within his power to speak up when a travesty of justice occurs. Chur's self-sacrifice was the stimulus for his grandson's appointment as builder of the Mishkan.

The Torah expresses a similar idea in regard to Yehudah. After Yosef's brothers had decided that Yosef was guilty and should be put to death, Yehudah suggested that they might as well sell him to the Yishmaelim. Now, Yehudah could have gone "all the way" and expressed his true feelings that Yosef should be returned home. He did not, because he felt that his brothers would have rejected his recommendation. He was punished for this with the premature death of his two older sons. We may wonder at this harsh punishment. It is not as if Yehudah had ignored the whole issue and let Yosef die. He saved his life by suggesting that he be sold to the caravan of Yishmaelim. He did not think his brothers would listen to him if he demanded "too" much. One might think that Yehudah was acting rather astutely.

Horav Chaim Elazary, zl, derives a noteworthy lesson from here. A leader must take a stand and express his true opinion on a given issue regardless of the results. Even if no one will listen he must come forth and convey his sentiments regarding a communal issue. Burying one's head in the ground because his statement will not carry weight is not a justification for indifference. A leader must demonstrate responsibility. It is not incumbent upon him to produce results, just to act. Hashem responds to an individual in a manner commensurate with his actions.

"Betzalel made the Aron of shittim wood." (37:1)

The Torah attributes the building of the Aron to Betzalel. Rashi explains that because Betzalel was moser nefesh, sacrificed himself with remarkable diligence to make sure that the Aron was built to exact perfection, he was considered to be its prime builder. Interestingly, in response to the Torah's previous statement, "and they made the Aron," Chazal question why the Torah writes, "and they" in the plural. In contrast, regarding other vessels the Torah had stated, "and you should make," in the singular. Chazal suggest that the Aron represents Torah study. Thus, everyone is welcome to join in creating the Aron, so that they will all share in the Torah. We may now question Betzalel's attitude toward building the Aron. Why was he careful to do as much as possible himself? If Hashem desired that the construction of the Aron should be a collective project, Betzalel should have restrained himself, giving others an opportunity to share in the task.

Horav Baruch Sorotzkin, zl, infers a significant principle from Betzalel's behavior. When it concerns Torah study, one should not rely upon others. While the mitzvah of Torah study and dissemination is placed upon everyone, the individual must act as if he is the only one who can successfully carry out the command. Torah is the lifeblood of our people. It sustains us spiritually, as it guides our moral behavior. To study Torah and see to it that others do the same is as much a personal mitzvah as it is a collective one. When our lives and the lives of others are at stake, we do not sit back and wait for help from an external source.


1. When did Moshe instruct Bnei Yisrael in the building of the Mishkan?

2. On what day of the week were the donations for the construction of the Mishkan halted?

3. Does the construction of the Mishkan take precedence over Shabbos? How do we know this?

4. What was the source of the Avnei Shoham?

5. What were the Bigdei Srad?

6. How was Betzalel related to Moshe?

7. Which one of the Klei Ha'Mishkan was made of material donated exclusively by the women?


1. The day after Yom Kippur.

2. Friday/Erev Shabbos so that the people should not violate the Shabbos by carrying the donation of the Machne Leviyah.

3. No. The Torah places the laws the Shmiras Shabbos prior to the command to build the Mishkan.

4. The nesiim brought them. According to the Talmud Yuma 75a, clouds descended from Heaven laden with these precious stones.

5. They were coverings for the Klei Ha'Mishkan during Bnei Yisrael's travels.

6. Betzalel was the great-grandson of Miriam, Moshe Rabbeinu's sister. He was Betzalel ben Uri ben Chur ben Miriam.

7. Kiyor.

Shema Yisrael Homepage

This article is provided as part of Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Permission is granted to redistribute electronically or on paper,
provided that this notice is included intact.
For information on subscriptions, archives, and other Shema Yisrael
Classes, send mail to

Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Jerusalem, Israel