book of Shemot culminates with the building
of the Mishkan.
This national project succeeds in actively bringing Hashem’s
presence into the daily life of the people. By positioning the Mishkan
at the center of the camp, an exclusive place is created for Hashem so that He
can be the focus of existence, and the primary Member of the community.
This is nothing less than a fulfillment of the purpose of Creation.
Torah opens with Hashem fashioning a place in
the physical universe where His presence may reside.
Mankind was meant to live in intimate contact with Hashem, but the
human race, at first, proved itself incapable of fulfilling this task. And so,
with the construction of the Mishkan, history comes full-circle:
now there exists a place in the material realm for Hashem to dwell. But, instead of Hashem being the One to establish this place
– namely, the Garden of Eden – the Mishkan is built by the Jewish
Nehama Leibowitz, in her commentary to Terumah
(pp. 475-482) points to the parallel verbal
expressions used by the Torah between the Children of Israel’s
completion of the Mishkan and Hashem’s completion of the universe.
The same verbs (vag and vkf) are used, often the same
number of times. She concludes:
Lord created heaven and earth and all therein for man to dwell in, and created
them in six days and rested on the seventh day. Similarly, Moses was summoned
on the seventh day to the cloud to see the pattern of the Tabernacle that it
was his duty to erect, in order to provide a place on earth for the Divine
Presence. It is incumbent on man to imitate his Creator.
the activities of each member of the Children
of Israel have cosmic consequences. Moshe
assembles the Children of Israel on the day after Yom Kippur, when the Second Luchot
were given to the them. He speaks
of donations for the construction:
from among you an offering to Hashem, whoever is of a willing heart, let him
bring it, an offering for Hashem
follows a list of the materials to be
donated, and the items to be fashioned. Moshe’s
call is exceptionally successful, for all are inspired to contribute their
materials and their skills:
they came, everyone whose heart stirred him up, and everyone whose spirit
prompted him brought Hashem’s offering for the work of the Tent of Meeting,
and for all its service, and for the holy garments
turned out to participate, and the Torah
describes the activities of the men and the women, willing of heart,
bestirred of spirit, bringing Hashem’s offering.
the princes brought onyx stones, and stones for the setting, for the Ephod and
for the Breastplate, and the spice, and the oil for the lighting and for the
anointing oil and for the incense
notes that here, the princes brought their
offerings last, whereas in the ceremonies for the dedication of the
altar, the princes stepped forward to make their offerings first (Bamidbar
ch. 7). He also notes that, here,
the word for and the princes –V’HA’NESI’IM (otabvu) – is
spelled deficiently, lacking two yuds. Why? Rashi explains:
Let the public volunteer what they can, and whatever they lack we will
make it up. Whereas the public
completed everything, as it says And the work was sufficient (Shemot
36:7), the princes said: What is left for us to do?
So they brought onyx stones, etc. Subsequently, they were the first to volunteer for the
dedication of the altar. And
since they tarried in the Mishkan’s construction, a letter was
omitted from their name. Because they procrastinated, the princes had to
settle for contributing to the accouterments of the Mishkan and not its
is difficult to understand this criticism of
the princes. Every fund-raiser dreams
of a group of donors like this, who pledges to complete the designated amount!
Why does Rashi accuse the princes of indifference?
Why is their title of princes less than perfect?
Why must they change for the dedication of the altar?
building of the Mishkan required more
than material donations. As the Malbim
points out, Hashem evaluated the people’s donations on the basis of their
inner desire. To fulfill the
purpose of existence, intention is crucial, and the princes’
intentions were deficient. However, it should be stated that the Nesiims’
motive truly was good, but nevertheless, they demonstrated a lack of zeal
exhibited by the people.
Yakar adds that the princes exhibited pride,
and Hashem removed the yuds – a letter from His Name – in
order to show that His
place is not with the proud. Nachalat
Yaakov (commentary on Rashi by R. Yaakov ben Binyamin Aharon Selnik, 17th
century) explains that the princes should
have anticipated the
possibility that, in
their enthusiasm and devotion to Hashem, the people might contribute
everything themselves – which, in fact, is what happened. Being unaware of
the people’s nature, and having such a low regard for them, demonstrates
that the princes were unfit to lead them.
We might add that the princes’ phlegmatic approach might have
subsequently spread to the rest of the people.
Or HaChaim (R. Chaim Ibn-Attar), makes the observation
that the offerings of the princes is mentioned last after the verse: And
all the women whose hearts inspired them with wisdom spun [the hair of] the
goats (v. 26), describing the outstanding craftsmanship of the women.
the Or HaChaim possibly be inferring that the
Torah’s placement of their offering last indicate that the Nesiim
were acting as followers, rather than the leaders they should have been?
learned from this experience, the princes
assume their proper role at the dedication of the Mishkan and bring
their offering immediately. Consequently, they will have Hashem’s full
support, and the world will thereby be brought closer to its perfection.