Take for Me a portion…
Significantly, the Torah does not use the verb that we would have expected. It does not instruct that we should give a portion towards the construction of the mishkan. The reason, of course, is that we cannot really give Him anything, since all is His! As Dovid expressed it, “Everything comes from you, and it is from Your hand that we have given you.” (Rivka meant similarly when she instructed her son Yaakov to bring a goat from the herd. “Go to the flock and take for me a kid.” Since she was entitled by her marriage terms to two animals a day, she as simply taking what already belonged to her.)
The Torah clearly values the generous spirit of people who were moved to donate towards construction of the mishkan. We can infer that this ease of contribution is important only because it was directed at a holy purpose. For mundane purposes, people should not be so loose with their money. Tzadikim are extremely careful about their money, not wasting even the smallest amounts.
We offer a mashal. Waging war in a distant land, a king divided his troops between three commanders. Each was given a monetary allotment with which to sustain his soldiers for a year.
One commander was parsimonious to a fault. Fearing that he would be left without any support after the end of the term, he all but starved his troops, subjecting them to unlivable conditions so that he would be able to put something away for an uncertain future. After some time, his soldiers would have no more of it. They deserted, making their way back to their homeland, where they lodged complaints against their detested commander.
A second commander was the polar opposite. He splurged on his men. This worked well, till he exhausted his cash well before the end of the year, at which point he was unable to provide his men with anything at all. They, too, deserted their posts en masse, and complained about their treatment when they arrived home.
Both commanders were demoted by the king.
A third was careful about his spending, providing neither too much nor too little, but what was appropriate to the circumstances. He maintained his army, and was rewarded richly by the king for his service.
This is part of the Torah’s instruction here. Take for me – generously – since it is a mitzvah expense. For other needs – not so much. Understand that you are a commander in His service. You are allocated funds to provide for the needy. Don’t be stingy with them, giving them less than they should receive. On the other hand, do not squander your allocation on luxuries for them. Provide appropriately for your own families, and then give wisely to the poor, in a measured amount. This way, you will continue on in the service of the King.
Some of the instructions concerning the mishkan are less than clear. In general, Terumah provides instructions, which are later described as implemented, item by item, by Bezalel and his workers. In Pekudei, the same items are brought to Moshe and assembled. But there are gaps. Our parsha does not provide instructions about the manufacture of the paroches. In Vayakhel, however, the paroches ha-masach is one of the items enumerated as funded by the donations. The description of Bezalel’s craft does not mention it. Yet it is one of the items mentioned when Moshe is later instructed to assemble the mishkan – albeit without description of its composition and construction!
It is possible that not all of the instructions about the building of the mishkan were given in the same manner. Hashem fully instructed regarding some items – parts that were deeply connected to the secrets of Creation. Those instructions became the province of those men with great depth of understanding.
Hashem wished that others would also be able to apply themselves and aid in the construction. Therefore, Hashem made women responsible for articles of the mishkan that were not linked to profound mysteries. He offered no detailed instructions, but left the execution to the artistry of the women.
The women noted the screen at the entrance of the mishkan, and (rightly so) concluded that its function was one of tzniyus – to provide a sense of privacy to the goings-on inside, similar to the way we surround a mishkan with a privacy curtain. They argued that if the Torah made such a screen part of the mishkan, it was certainly called for around its holiest section – the kodesh ha-kodashim and the aron.
No details had to be given. The women applied their ingenuity, and designed something that worked. The paroches fully on their own.
- Based on Meshivas Nafesh by R. Yochanan Luria (15th century) ↑
- Shemos 25:1 ↑
- Shemos 35:12 ↑
- What elsewhere is simply called the paroches, dividing beween the kodesh ha-kodoshim and the rest of the mishkan. See Rashi ↑