When a group comes together to do something — whether
it is a neighborhood committee, or a sports team, or a
business organization, or an army — they are united by
a common goal but the individuals may be sharply divided in
their individual motives. Some may be motivated by genuine
altruistic motives of improving the world, some may be
motivated by the hope of personal material gain, some may be
driven by hatred of an opponent, some may be locked in a
routine and just doing what they always do, and some may just
be moved to do evil.
For all practical purposes, it does not really matter what
motivates their participation. As long as they cooperate and
do their part, the job will get done, the game will be won,
the enemy will be defeated. Everything will be fine and no
one will ever know the difference.
"For man sees with his eyes, but Hashem sees the heart"
(Shmuel I 16:7). The Torah, as the word of Hashem to
us, has different interests and different demands.
All the parshiyos in the Torah in the second half of
sefer Shemos are concerned with the building of the
Mishkan — the space that houses the
Shechinah in our world.
It is established with three terumos: The first was
the half-shekel of counting whose proceeds were used to cast
the adonim, the silver sockets that held up the
keroshim, the gold-covered boards of the
Heichal. The second terumoh was the one noted
at the beginning of parshas Terumoh, wherein each gave
according to his nedivus leiv, his personal
commitment, generosity and ability. This was used for
constructing the rest of the building and the various vessels
used in the Mishkan. The third terumoh refers
to another uniform half-shekel that was given to the
Mishkan as the first of the annual machatzis
hashekel and was used, as always, to fund the public
sacrifices brought in the Mishkan and later in the
HaRav Shamshon Rafael Hirsch writes, "Every member of the
community has an equal portion in the basic values on which
the Sanctuary rested (Terumas Adonim) and in the
ideals that are to be attained through the Sanctuary
(Terumas Shekolim). With regard to the construction
and maintenance of the Sanctuary, however, everyone could
contribute as he wished (Terumas HaMishkan)" ("Shevat
VI," p. 362).
The Mishkan (and later the Beis Hamikdosh) is
the focus of our aspirations. We pray towards it and we visit
it thrice yearly. The ideal avodoh, which is the ideal
of human life, is attained in the service in the
The posuk says, Zeh yitnu. Chazal
(Yerushalmi Shekolim 5:4) say that Hashem took a coin
of fire from under His Kisei Hakovod and showed it to
The basis of our avodoh is a full commitment to this
Aish-Dos the fire that underlies the Kisei
Hakovod. That is the first thing that we must bring. If
we understand who we are and what we are for, we must be able
to bring this coin that represents our fire, this basic
commitment in our life, which is a constant requirement of
all units of Klal Yisroel, and forms the very
foundation of the Mishkan.
Once that basic foundation is in place, then there is room
for individual creativity and the unique personal
contribution that each of us can make as we all, together,
construct the Mishkan. In the end we can take no
credit or special pride or shame in the size and nature of
our contribution, since its final goal is the avodoh,
which is a collective product of us all.
To be sure, we cannot assess the commitment of our fellows.
It is hard enough to know our own hearts, and we must
constantly examine ourselves to see if we are clean and
But the base upon which all is built is the personal and
complete commitment that each of us makes to serving the
Ribono Shel Olom: Zeh yitnu kol ho'oveir al hapekudim
— Whoever wishes to be counted in Klal Yisroel
must give this.