It is quite natural for one to be enthusiastic or excited about certain issues. Enthusiasm and eagerness are also required in our service of God. Our parashah contains a very interesting incident: “And they said to Moshe, ‘The nation are bringing far more than is required for the work that God commanded to be done.’ Moshe ordered that an announcement be made in the camp, saying, ‘Let no man or woman do any further work as a sanctified donation; (thus) the nation ceased bringing (donations)’” (Shemot36:5,6). The Mishkan (Tabernacle), and later our Temple, the most sanctified of locations, are based entirely on the donations of the Jewish People. There was such great enthusiasm at the opportunity to contribute to the House of God that it was necessary to command the people to cease bringing any further offerings.
What would have happened if I would have hesitated and been unable to bring my donation prior to Moshe ordering the cessation of all contributions? Even he who was unable to participate in the tremendous event related in our parashah would have the opportunity to offer the Mahatzit ha-Shekel (The Half Shekel). Parashat Ki Tisa commands us, each and every Jewish male, to offer a half-shekel to the Mishkan. Both the poorest and wealthiest individual are to make an equal donation of this half-shekel, no more, and no less; “The wealthy (individual) may not increase (his donation), neither may the destitute reduce (his donation)” (ibid. 30:15). While the Machatzit ha-Shekel also serves as the medium whereby the national census is achieved, its primary importance is to finance the Mishkan and the Temple.
Rashi (ibid.) explains that the Machatzit ha-Shekel was utilized to fund the adanim – the bases of the upright beams of theMishkan’s walls – and also for the regular communal sacrifices. The Sefer ha-Chinnuch writes in a similar fashion: “For God desired the good of Yisra’el, and to bestow merit upon them that everyone should have an equal share in the sacrifices that were offered to Him on a regular basis the entire year… and that both the poor and the wealthy be equal in one of His mitzvoth” (Mitzvah 105).
How, then, is the Mishkan to be financed by every individual Jew, even those who were unable to participate in its initial construction? Through the Machatzit ha-Shekel he was to participate in funding the Tamid sacrifice, the communal sacrifice offered twice daily. His donation was also used for the adanim, for they served as the bases for the upright beams which comprised theMishkan’s walls. Thus the basis of the entire Mishkan consisted of the equal donation of the poor and the wealthy. (Of course it was permitted to make further donations to the Mishkan “from each man whose heart impels him to donate” (Shemot 25:2).)
If we are to take Pesach as an example, the seder night has very strict regulations: if one does not discuss “The Pascal sacrifice, Matzah, and Maror, then he has not fulfilled his obligation” (Haggadah) to recount the Exodus from Egypt. One must drink four cups of wine; eat the correct amount of matzah while reclining, and so on. These requirements will be fulfilled in exactly the same manner in every single Jewish home. Yet there is also the dictum “Whoever increases (in recounting the Exodus) is praiseworthy.”
If we were to choose a manner in which to celebrate our liberation from Egyptand our nation’s birth, certainly our celebrations would include fireworks and barbecues, among other activities. While this may hold great significance for us, and we may be extremely enthusiastic about this celebration, with time our excitement and enthusiasm would wane. Parashat Tetzaveh(“Command”) follows Parashat Terumah (“Donation”) for precisely this reason; our enthusiasm must be contained within a framework and defining structure in order to perpetuate that excitement. While this framework delineates the set boundaries and guidelines, it may always be complemented and enhanced by one’s further involvement and enthusiasm.
May we merit constant and enduring excitement in every aspect of our service of God, excitement akin to the outpouring of generosity for the construction of the Mishkan, enthusiasm that will never subside.