“That They Bring Me an Offering”
Commenting on the verse that states, “Speak to the Children of Israel, that they take for Me an offering” (Ex 25:2), Rashi explains that this means “for Me, for My Name” (Mechilta ibid.).
One may ask at least two questions concerning this brief explanation.
1. What does “for My Name” mean exactly?
2. Why does the Eternal ask the Children of Israel to bring Him an offering for the construction of the Sanctuary? Is it not written, “the whole world is filled with His glory” (Isa 6:3)? Since everything belongs to Him (cf. I Ch 29:14), does He need gold or silver? Instead of counting on the generosity of the Children of Israel, He could have reveled to Moses the location of one or many treasures in the desert.
The answer is because of the fact that a person who donates a certain amount to a Torah institute generally wants, even if it’s only deep down inside, to be praised for his deed. Who wouldn’t rejoice in this noteworthy honor? Consequently, the Torah emphasizes the fact that the one who gives an offering should be firmly convinced that he has in fact given nothing, since everything belongs to G-d. As soon as one gives a donation, one should completely give way before G-d, the source of all our income, as it is written, “Mine is the silver and mine is the gold” (Hag 2:8).
The donations that one makes to a yeshiva (which is really a miniature Sanctuary) or to the Sages of the Torah (who themselves are sanctuaries of G-d) should be made exclusively in the Name of G-d, meaning for His honor. “The L-RD bless you and guard you” (Num 6:24) means that He bless your possessions (Bamidbar Rabba 11:13). Know, therefore, that all comes from Him and all converges to Him. Knowing this leads to self-effacement before the Creator. Blessing and the Shechinah will accompany you in all your undertakings. “Your offering helps you to know Shemi [My Name].” In the final analysis, the Terumah (offering) made for the construction of the Sanctuary and its vessels serves those who have given it. The offering contributes leromemam (to spiritually uplift them – a word with the same root as Terumah). The offering uplifts them in such a way that the Eternal resides in them. In fact, the Children of Israel gave up all their silver and gold for the construction of the Sanctuary in order to find grace in the eyes of the Eternal. “The people are bringing more than enough for the labor of the work that the L-RD has commanded them” (Ex 36:5). Moses then made it known in the camp that no one, man or woman, should bring any more offerings for the Sanctuary (v.6). If Moses had not said this, the children of Israel could have offered all their goods, so great was their love for G-d.
Yeshivas don’t normally need outside help, for the Shechinah resides there permanently. However G-d especially chose us to bring an offering to the place where His Holy Name is worshipped. The verse states, “in ever place where I cause My Name to be mentioned I will come to you and bless you” (Ex 20:21). This means that G-d will bless your possessions (as we wrote earlier) so that you can contribute to the building of the Sanctuary and financially help yeshivas. You will thereby reach lofty spiritual heights. The Eternal did a great favor to the Children of Israel by giving them the Torah and numerous mitzvot, as it is written, “The L-RD desired, for the sake of tzeedko [His righteousness], to make the Torah great and glorious” (Isa 42:21). In other words, giving tzeddakah (charity) to yeshivas is equivalent to giving for the construction of the Sanctuary, for the institutes devoted to Talmudic studies, as well as synagogues, are sanctuaries in miniature (Megillah 29a). Charity and good deeds are the same as all the mitzvot (Yerushalmi Peah 1:1). G-d wants that the Children of Israel, just as they had generously helped to build the Sanctuary, should help in strengthening the study of Torah, which in itself is a compendium of the Names of the Holy One, blessed be He (Zohar II:95a). G-d told them, “Bring your money that I personally gave you and invest it in the construction of the Sanctuary. The earth is certainly filled with My glory, but I desire that you use your silver and gold for exceedingly lofty goals. In this way you will reach unlimited spiritual levels and the Shechinah will reside in you.” It is written, “And let them make Me a Sanctuary, that I may dwell in them” (Ex 25:8); it doesn’t say “in it” (the Sanctuary) but rather “in them”, which means individually, in every single person.