In this week’s Torah portion, Parsha Vayakhel-Pekudei, Moses gathers the Jewish people and reiterates the importance of keeping Shabbat and details the materials that are needed to build the Mishkan. The Jewish people continue to bring so many materials, ending up with an overwhelming amount of excess material. “The people are bringing more than is needed for the tasks entailed in the work that G-d has commanded to be done. Moses thereupon had this proclamation made throughout the camp: 'Let no man or woman make further effort toward gifts for the sanctuary!' So the people stopped bringing:” (Exodus 36:5-6). There are countless different interpretations of these few verses. The Ba’al HaTurim explains that the Torah makes note of this to recognize the honesty of the people who brought extra. Instead of keeping it for themselves, it was carefully preserved and kept securely.
So, if we zoom out, there are many different ways that we, ourselves, can look at this Parsha and try to learn from it. Everything in Judaism directs us to give. Mitzvot such as Tzedakah (charity) Matanot Le’evionim (Purim gifts for the poor) and mishloach manot (Purim food gift baskets), and Hilchot Peah (leaving a section of your field for the poor). We are constantly told to take a step back and do more for the community around us. That’s the foundation of Judaism.
So why does G-d reject all of the extra materials? Isn’t it important to uphold those values? Simply put, G-d did not want the Mishkan to be extra. The Mishkan was a place of worship for the Jewish people as they traveled through the desert. While this structure was full of silver and gold, and was extremely extravagant, G-d really did not want it to be over the top. If it was too much, it would take away from the focus and the purpose of the Mishkan.
This is a very strong message, and it’s a recurring one throughout the Torah. While giving is incredibly important and it lifts our community up, sometimes we need to take an extra minute to think about what the purpose is, and if giving is truly the right way to proceed. G-d never discouraged giving, but rather the opposite. These people were rewarded with their honesty, G-d rejected their excess materials, and life moved on.
Read commentary on this week's Parsha from BBYO teens around the world.
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