This week’s parsha deals with the topic of the Mishkan (Tabernacle), which the Children of Israel built in the wilderness in the first year after leaving Egypt. G-d instructs Moshe to tell the Children of Israel to donate all of the raw materials for the building of the Mishkan. It was undoubtedly the most successful campaign to raise money ever. The response was so enthusiastic that Moshe subsequently announced that everyone should discontinue bringing their donations; there was more than enough.
The Beis HaLevi notes that this week’s parsha is placed out of order with the actual chronological events, partly so it would be juxtaposed with last week’s parsha, which deals with civil law and justice. The Beis HaLevi writes that the reason for this is that before one begins to be generous with his money, it has to qualify according to the standards of justice and fairness of last week’s parsha. That is to say that charity given from ill-gotten possessions is not viewed by G-d as the performance of good. The Beis HaLevi compares it to a case discussed in the Talmud of someone who steals any or all of the Four Species, which are bound together and waved on the Holiday of Succos. It is considered at best as if the person had not performed the commandment at all. It is a Mitzvah (Commandment) performed through sinfulness, and it is not accepted. This is why it states in the prophesies of the prophet Yeshaya “Guard justice and perform charitable acts for My help is close in coming” (Chap. 55).
G-d’s Participation in the Process of Learning and Understanding Torah
The way that Moshe was instructed to command the Children of Israel to donate for the Mishkan seems somewhat unusual. It states “and they shall take (to) Me a donation.” It is odd that the Torah doesn’t say “they will give Me a donation.” On this the Midrash explains that one of the deeper meanings of these words is that G-d is exhorting us to “take Him” as well. The Midrash writes as if quoting G-d “You have taken My Torah and My laws of justice (as is recorded in last week’s parsha). Take Me along with them!” What does it mean that G-d wants us to take Him along?
The Beis HaLevi explains this as follows. “Understanding the truth in Torah and rendering correct legal decisions are two things which are impossible to attain without G-d’s help. This is why the Talmud states “whoever learns Torah, G-d learns opposite him.” This is because we need His help to come to the truth. The process requires that we seek His aid. The Beis HaLevi supports this with various verses from the scriptures. Justice is also something that requires G-d’s help. The wise King Solomon at the onset of his career prayed to G-d to be given a heart that lends itself to discerning between good and evil in order to be able to properly judge the Children of Israel. The verse in Psalms states “G-d stands in the council of judges” (Psalms 82:1). G-d involves Himself in helping us come to clarity of the truth, and we need His help in doing so. This is how we take G-d together with the Torah.
Needless to say, if one learns Torah without the proper seriousness and intellectual honesty, or he has preconceived notions, or he comes with an agenda, he will not come to understand the true intentions of the Torah. Such a person will only come to incorrect conclusions about what G-d expects from us. Worse, it has happened that such people have set themselves up as authorities and led many away from the true meaning of the Torah.
To conclude, the entire parsha deals with bringing G-d into the world. This is the attainment of all attainments; to bring G-d’s presence among us. Everything else that a human being can attain pales in comparison to this great achievement. Our forefathers lived with G-d’s manifest presence for over a thousand years, and we can achieve it again. It requires effort, study, and commitment. May we merit seeing it realized.