Morning after morning, with great enthusiasm and eagerness, Bnei Yisrael brought their donations for the building of the Mishkan — until Moshe Rabbeinu instructed that no additional materials be brought.
How much did they bring?
In the very same passuk, the Torah uses two terms that appear contradictory: dayam, which means “enough,” and v’hoseir, which means “extra.”
Was there enough, or was there left over?
The Maharam Shiff explains that the only way to know for certain that something is enough is when some is left over. For if nothing is left over, one can assume that if more had been available, it too would have been used.
The Ohr Hachaim Hakadosh teaches that while the material that was brought exceeded what was needed, in His infinite love for Bnei Yisrael, and to ensure that the feelings of not even a single individual would be hurt, Hashem wrought a miracle and the donations were actually used.
This is a powerful lesson. It is a reminder of the great love that Hashem has for us, His beloved children, and it also reminds us just how careful we must be not to hurt others’ feelings.
Harav Yechezkel, the Rebbe of Kuzmir, zy”a, gave an explanation that would seem to stress exactly the opposite. If there had been precisely the right number of donations, then every donor would have been assured that his donation had been used, and there would have been a real danger of arrogance. Therefore, there was extra, so that no single donor was certain whether his donation had been used.
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In addition to Parshiyos Vayakhel and Pikudei, this week we also read Parashas Parah.
The parah adumah cleansed the contaminated yet contaminated the pure — a paradox that defies human logic.
In his classic Yosher Divrei Emes, Harav Meshulam Feivush, the Rebbe of Zhibariza, zy”a, uses the concept of parah adumah to explain a very relevant topic. He discusses at great length and in depth the vital importance of the attribute of humility and the terrible dangers of arrogance. He then contrasts arrogance with self-confidence and self-esteem.
An oft-quoted passuk in Divrei Hayamim (II:17:6) praises the righteous King Yehoshafat: “His heart was elevated in the ways of Hashem.” Furthermore, Chazal say (Sanhedrin 37a), “Therefore, was man created singly … therefore each and every one is obligated to say, ‘For my sake was the world created.’”
Where is the line between “elevating the heart in the ways of Hashem” and the gaavah that is so repulsive in the Eyes of Hashem?
Yosher Divrei Emes explains that a certain amount of “elevation” — a certain measure of self-confidence — is needed for avodas Hashem. Otherwise, a person may doubt the value of his learning and his mitzvos. He would use this misplaced humility to avoid trying to become closer to Hashem.
Therefore, before performing a mitzvah, one must strengthen himself and “elevate his heart in the ways of Hashem.” He must remind himself that the whole world was created for him!
The Yosher Divrei Emes stresses, however, that this is only before doing the mitzvah. Afterward, he must be filled with humility, recognizing that he actually didn’t do anything; the opportunity, the strength, and the knowledge to fulfill the mitzvah all came from Hashem. In fact, we would not even continue to exist if our Creator did not will it.
Like the ashes of the parah adumah, self-esteem purifies the impure and contaminates the pure. When used correctly, it is essential for spiritual growth; when misused, it is the cause of self-destruction.
Both these concepts are symbolized in the explanations given regarding the number of donations brought to the Mishkan. While one must flee from any influence of arrogance, he should also be careful not to shatter his own feelings of self esteem — for this, too, is extremely counterproductive.
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In Jewish homes throughout the world, preparations for Pesach are already under way. For the outside world, much of the cleaning and scrubbing seems downright inexplicable.
Though it would be much easier simply to pack up and go to a hotel for Pesach, many Jews continue to adhere to the cherished custom, faithfully passed down through the generations, to consume only foods prepared in their own home — to the greatest extent possible.
They should have no doubts about the worthiness and importance of their deeds, for these long hours and hard work are also a type of donation to the Mishkan that is being built in their own hearts, an affirmation of their love for Hashem and his Torah.