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Parshas Terumah - The Mishkan: Understanding the Command to Donate

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Feb 22, 2009

"Speak unto B'nei Yisroel, and they shall take unto Me a donation ("terumah") from each person whose heart so wills him...And this is the donation: gold and silver and copper, and turqoise and purple materials and scarlet...And they shall make unto Me a holy abode, and I shall dwell therein." (Shemos 25:2-5)

Why does the Torah first enumerate the materials to be brought for the Mishkan and only declare at the end of the list what the materials would be used for? Would it not be more reasonable to read, "And they shall make Me a holy abode, and they shall therefore bring gold, silver..."?

It would appear that the answer to this question may be found in the first Rashi on the parshah, in which Rashi (from Midrash Tanchuma) explains the phrase, "and they shall take unto Me a donation" as, "to Me, for My sake" . What exactly does Rashi mean? Is not a donation always for the sake of the party to whom it is given?

In invoking the words of the Tanchuma, Rashi addresses the inner motivation of B'nei Yisroel's donation. Of course, the donation would be given for the sake of Hashem, but the inner motivation of the donors was of critical focus. Rashi emphasizes that the terumah was not to be given for the sake of constructing the Mishkan; rather, it was to be given for the sake of fulfilling God's command. The use of the terumah for building the Mishkan was not part of the command and was not to have been a motivating factor in the generosity of the donors.

The key to the close relationship between God and His People which was engendered by the terumah was specifically the fact that B'nei Yisroel contributed l'shem shamayim - for the pure sake of Hashem. They gave of their riches because God commanded it - period. This commitment and love facilitated God's desire to dwell amidst His nation, as manifested by the Mishkan.

May we, too, embody the virtue of fulfilling mitzvos "lishmah" and merit to cling to Hashem.


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