Moshe Rabbeinu, who received the charge from G-d to build the Mishkan in the previous parshiot of Terumah and Tetzaveh, now brings this command to the Jewish people. The way the Torah records these events is telling. In Terumah, Moshe is commanded, "Speak to the children of Israel and they will take (veyikchu) for Me a gift." When Moshe relays this to the community the reaction was such that "everyone whose heart motivated him brought (heivi'u)."
The same words are used in another passage: "Take (kechu) from yourselves a gift for Hashem; everyone whose heart motivates him should bring it (yevi'ehah)."
Why, the commentaries wonder, does the verse begin with the word take, which connotes aversion, and then shift to the word bring, which connotes willingness?
Daat Sefer al Hatorah utilizes the Rambam's approach to a different issue to explain these verses.
A get, a Jewish bill of divorce, must be given by the husband willingly. Never-theless, it is permissible for the beis din to coerce a recalcitrant husband to give his wife a get. He is pressured until he says, "I want to."
Intrinsically, a Jew wants to do what's right. But often he is detoured by a preoccupation with his finite needs and desires. When the beis din coerces him, the Rambam explains, they are merely removing the negative barriers and facades which he has developed and which prevent him from pursuing the course of his Jewish life which he is indigenous to. His declaration of "I want to" is not fabricated, but rather is a genuine spirit he possesses, heretofore concealed by veils of vanity.
In the collection of terumah, as well, the Bnai Yisrael are first charged with taking. It is difficult to part with newly acquired possessions, such as those the Bnai Yisrael took from Egypt after 210 years of owning nothing.
Nonetheless, given the opportunity to join with others to build Hashem's sanctuary and to atone for the communal sin of the Golden Calf, the Bnai Yisrael were eager to give. They quickly recognized that nothing was being taken from them; rather, they were being revitalized through their contributions.
Collectively they declared, "We want to." On top of the mandatory terumah, their hearts motivated them to bring more. It is the elevated spirit of the people that causes the Shechinah to dwell among them.
In our day, we, too, must be committed to our people who have become distanced from the contemporary Mishkan our shuls and the mitzvot they contain, along with all the beauty and significance of Jewish living. Perhaps, there will be reluctance at first, but willingness will follow.
We must learn to take from our selves from our time, from our energy and contribute to the unity of our people. This will ultimately bring our brothers and sisters kol Bait Yisrael to the threshold of the Mishkan.
The half-shekel each donates maintains and promotes our sacred unity. But we need kol Bait Yisrael. Until then, we are providing only half of what we can achieve.
Rabbi Shaya Kilimnick
Rabbi Kilimnick is the Rabbi of Congregation Beth Sholom, Rochester, NY.
effort of Weinstock Web Works, OU Online - The Cyber Home of Torah, and 613.org - Jewish Torah Audio