Vayakhel: Watch your mouth and ego

“Moshe commanded and they proclaimed in the camp, saying, “Man and woman shall not do more work… and the nation stopped from bringing. (Exodus 36:6)

The commentaries note that the phrases here do not mesh.  People were bringing donations, or performing skilled craftsmanship in their homes in preparation for donation, and it was realized that no more was needed. An announcement went forth that people should not do any more work.  The assumption would be that whatever was already done should be brought in.  However, the populace ceased bringing donations entirely.

In truth, Moshe could have said, “Do not bring more,” as all the needs of the Mishkan were met.  Why then did he phrase it in such an unusual way?

Let us imagine someone had prepared a skillfully woven piece of fabric, (which was very tricky as it had to be spun while still on the goat!)  She is about to bring it in when the call goes out, “Sorry, we don’t need any more.”  She would be crestfallen, feeling that her contribution was meaningless.  Moshe wanted every Jew to know that he or she is valuable and precious so he said, “By all means, bring in what you have, but don’t do more work.”  In that way, no one would feel unnecessary or superfluous.

However, that isn’t what happened.  For their part, the Jews understood that there was no more need for the items they had prepared so they desisted from bringing them.  They understood that Moshe said it as he did only so no one would feel bad, so they stopped bringing more items.  These two points teach us a very key lesson about relationships.

Moshe recognized the need of each person to feel necessary and wanted.  Therefore, even if the Mishkan was complete, discouraging someone from bringing a heartfelt donation might hurt their feelings, which would detract from the Mishkan’s shleimus, or completeness. There would be a hole in it where that person’s heart was in pain.

The people, however, were not interested in building the Mishkan for their own glory.  They didn’t need to bring donations to make themselves feel good. Rather, their sole focus was on making sure the Mishkan had whatever it needed to be fit for HaShem’s glory.  Therefore, when they heard Moshe say that no more work should be done, they read between the lines and knew that the Mishkan didn’t need any more.  That was enough to make them happy and they ceased bringing donations.

Both Moshe and the people were concerned not about themselves, but about the other party.  When that is the case, a home for the Divine Presence can be made whole, and people need not justify their existence by forcing anything on the other one.

And so, the Mishkan was completed.

About the Author
Growing up a rabbi's son, Jonathan Gewirtz moved around and met people from all walks of life. A columnist and speechwriter, he draws on his experiences for his writing. As the scion of a Rabbinic family, he is passionate about the power of words and the greatness inherent in each of us.
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