Of Eternal Value

Rabbi Reuven Mann

This week’s parsha, Vayakhel, describes the success of the plan to obtain the materials and very skilled labor necessary for the building of the Mishkan through voluntary donations of the people.  Apparently, the prospect of contributing in some manner to this awesome enterprise struck a deep chord in the heart of the nation.  The verses describe the great generosity which was displayed by the Jews.  Thus it says, “Every man whose heart inspired him came, and everyone whose spirit motivated him brought the portion of Hashem for the work of the tent of meeting…The men came with the women everyone whose heart motivated him brought bracelets, nose rings, …all sorts of gold ornaments…Every man and woman whose heart motivated them to bring for any of the work that Hashem had commanded to make……brought a free willed offering to Hashem.”   The people were extremely giving of their treasure and skills.  The donations got so massive that a special call went out instructing them not to bring anything more.  What can we learn from this phenomenal display of giving?

The Rabbis say, “Who is wealthy?  One who rejoices in his portion.  They meant to say that ‘wealth’ cannot be measured by numbers.  One can have millions but be empty, miserable and poor.  On the other hand, a person can have meager resources and yet feel very content and satisfied.  Of crucial importance is one’s inner state of mind.  G-d has endowed man with talents and abilities as well as with material resources.  Man has an innate need to participate in matters that he regards as “important.” This stems from the instinctive feeling that life has a larger purpose and that each person has a special mission.  Many people have all the creature comforts one can imagine and yet feel unfulfilled.  In moments of honesty they realize the shallowness of self indulgence and long for an opportunity to use their talents and resources in something of eternal value.  The construction of the Mishkan was an educational experience for the Jews.  Hashem had liberated them from the worst condition, enslavement to base and corrupt people.  He had transformed them into free people with a lot of material wealth.  The teaching was: do not remain stagnant and believe that just “breathing free” and luxuriating in the “good” life will make you happy.  The freedom granted was an opportunity to develop and use the skills which had been stifled by the Egyptians.  The Jews were invited to participate in the construction of the most sublime edifice, the Mishkan, which would be the “dwelling place” of Hashem, amongst them.  The hearts of the people were inspired with a great sense of generosity.  All those with special skills and talents came forth to utilize their abilities which they recognized had been granted them for just such a purpose.  There is nothing more gratifying than using one’s wisdom and skill in advancing a noble cause.  Imagine the joy in using your mind to discover the cure for a crippling disease, or to help someone solve a vexing problem, or to establish an institution which will provide tremendous benefit to countless people.

In responding to the call of building the Mishkan the Jews learned that happiness can only come from developing our G-d given skills and dedicating them to His service.  It is with regard to this type of giving that the Book of Proverbs says, “The person of chesed benefits himself.”  It is great to have wisdom, skill, and resources.  It is even greater to have an opportunity to utilize them in a cause which provides an eternal benefit for mankind and fulfillment for oneself.

Shabbat Shalom