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Derasha Parshat Vayakhel

03/12/2024 12:00:00 AM


When it comes to making the actual Mishkan, there are two components the Parasha emphasizes as essential.  They point in what seems to be opposite directions -- one is about the group and the other is about individuals.  But both are essential.

First, for the only time in the Torah, Moshe is described as gathering the people together.  This verb is never used any other time.  They must come together in order to accomplish this.  Not just because it’s a monumental task.  But because, otherwise, it’s not a truly communal space.  

There is one other point in the Torah where unity like this was required -- at the foot of Har Sinai.  There too everyone was united.  The Mishkan is the mobilization of Har Sinai.  It makes it so that the Har Sinai experience can travel with the people from here to Eretz Yisrael.  Neither experience is possible without this unification.  

In the section of Shabbat Davening just before we say Bar’chu, the Chazan takes over.  He brings together the Yesharim, the straight, and the Tzadikim, the righteous.  Then he calls out the Chasidim and then the Kedoshim.  This is a movement up a ladder.  But there’s still one more step -- U’v’makhalot Re’vavot -- amidst the communities.  When people come together, then all of the groups are mixed together.  There is no rung on the ladder higher than that.  It makes addressing Hashem possible at the highest level accessible to us.

So there has to be unity.  But there’s another component of building the Mishkan.  As people are summoned into action, the verse says -- 

וַיָּבֹ֕אוּ כָּל־אִ֖ישׁ אֲשֶׁר־נְשָׂא֣וֹ לִבּ֑וֹ וְכֹ֡ל אֲשֶׁר֩ נָדְבָ֨ה רוּח֜וֹ אֹת֗וֹ הֵ֠בִיאוּ אֶת־תְּרוּמַ֨ת ד'

 ---  And everyone whose heart lifted him, and everyone whose voluntary spirit moved him, brought the donations of Hashem. 

The Ramban sees here two sets of people -- each introduced by “Kol” (each type of person) and with two separate verbs -- “they came” and “they brought.”  The second group, those who brought, are the more predictable group in a collection process: They are the givers, the people who bring the raw materials.  These people are always essential, the heroes of any collection.  They have Nadava, a voluntary spirit, which makes for generosity.  We know that that quality exploded in this episode.  There was so much giving, Moshe had to tell them to stop.  They were creating, after all, a finite object.  They only needed so much.    

But what is happening in that first phrase, before the generous ones are summoned?  Who are the people whose hearts are lifted up?  What are they doing?  This expression of a lifted heart also sounds like a certain hubris.  It might be good hubris; there is such a thing as good hubris.  But for stuff to be donated, you don’t need hubris.  Generosity is enough.

The Ramban says a wonderful thing here about this first group.  He says that they are the ones coming forward not to bring their stuff but to bring themselves to do the work.  It doesn’t mean that they are necessarily qualified.  It doesn’t mean that they have the talent.  They haven’t been trained and they haven’t apprenticed either.  They just come because they know the work must be done, and if it must be done, then it can be done.  Somehow, and some way.  These are also essential workers, and heroes.  They are even listed first in the verse, before the donors.  They have priority, those who simply step up and hope for the best.  This too is an essential quality in building the Mishkan or any communal undertaking: Individuals stepping forward and offering whatever skill they have, willing to push in a way that forces out whatever latent talent they have inside.  

We have seen in wartime that both are in play.  There has to be unity and there has to be a willingness to do what has to be done, no matter the training or the preparation.  If both qualities hold, then we can see big things, Bimheira V’yameinu.  



Sun, April 14 2024 6 Nisan 5784