Offerings for the Sanctuary and Their Connection to G-d
It is written, “Let them take an offering for Me” (Shemot 25:2).
This week’s parsha, which deals with offerings for the Sanctuary, comes after Parshiot Yitro and Mishpatim, which deal primarily with the giving of the Torah to the Jewish people on Mount Sinai, and continue with the laws and mitzvot that were also given on Mount Sinai.
We need to understand why the verse says, “Let them take an offering for Me.” What does “for Me” signify? True, Rashi explains it by citing the Midrash: “For Me – for My Name.” However we still need to understand why G-d’s Name is mentioned when it comes to giving an offering. There is a well-known question, one that we have already mentioned, namely why Hashem asked the Jewish people for an offering to build the Sanctuary. Do silver and gold not belong to Him, and does He not have the ability and power to do all that He wants?
We also need to understand the reason for the seemingly redundant expression in this verse: “Let them take an offering for Me – from every man whose heart motivates him, you shall take My offering.” The first part of this verse (“Let them take an offering for Me”) seems unnecessary, for all the Torah needed to say was, “From every man….”
In regards to the connection of Parshiot Yitro and Mishpatim with Parsha Terumah, we find the following commentary: “Since the Children of Israel joyfully took upon themselves the yoke of the kingdom of Heaven, and they said: ‘All that Hashem has said, we shall do and we shall hear,’ G-d immediately said to Moshe: ‘Speak to the Children of Israel, and let them take an offering for Me’ ” (Tanna D’vei Eliyahu Rabba 7). This requires an explanation, for what connection is there between the yoke of the kingdom of Heaven, we shall do and we shall hear, and offerings for the Sanctuary?
We know that the goal of the Sanctuary was to make the Shechinah dwell among earthly beings, and to create a connection between G-d and Israel, a permanent connection effected by means of the Sanctuary and the rituals that took place in it, as the Ramban states in his commentary at the start of the parsha. This is the meaning of, “I will dwell among them” (Shemot 25:8), this being the goal of the Sanctuary.
Connecting to G-d by means of the Sanctuary was only possible when the Jewish people were able to completely annul themselves and their essence vis-à-vis Hashem. At that point, when they annulled their will and their thoughts before those of the Creator – when the Children of Israel said, “we shall do and we shall hear” – they were able to be united and connected to G-d, for the Shechinah would dwell among them on earth in a permanent and clear way. In fact it is not possible to be mutually connected and united when there are two different powers and personalities. Having two masters runs contrary to the concept of unity, and unity is only possible when one among the two is annulled and fused into the other.
At Mount Sinai, the Jewish people not only received the Torah, nor did they only agree to fulfill all 613 mitzvot. Above all, they annulled their personalities and will before that of G-d, this being expressed by the statement: “We shall do and we shall hear.” There is no reason to weigh different opinions and to think, for there is no other intelligence or will besides G-d’s. Hence we shall do and then we shall hear. Thus the entire Jewish people achieved perfect unity with G-d by accepting the Torah with the words, “We shall do and we shall hear.” This is the meaning behind the expression, “The Holy One, blessed be He, the Torah, and Israel are one.”
Since the Children of Israel reached this level, they became worthy for the Shechinah to dwell among them, the result of achieving perfect unity with Hashem. He came to dwell among them, so to speak, in a permanent and clear way. As Rashi explains on the verse, “It was on the day that Moshe kalot [finished] erecting the Sanctuary” (Bamidbar 7:1): “On the day that the Sanctuary was erected, the Israelites were like a kalah, a bride coming beneath the chuppah.” Like bride and groom, like two spouses, two bodies that form one, one spouse being like the other’s own body, likewise the Holy One, blessed be He, and Israel were connected and united like a married couple with a single body on the day of the inauguration of the Sanctuary, when the Shechinah came to dwell among them. We have already explained that this is why the Torah separated the account of the giving of the Torah from the detailed laws that follow it with the commandment: “You shall not ascend My altar on steps” (Shemot 20:23). Steps allude to pride, which is the opposite of humility and self-annulment. Pride prevents unity between Hashem and Israel by means of the Torah. Hence this warns us not to lose the “we shall do and we shall hear” on account of pride, commanding us not to ascend the altar, which alludes to humility, by means of steps.
This was how the Children of Israel received the Torah. Through humility and by completely annulling themselves before G-d, they reached the level at which “the Holy One, blessed be He, the Torah, and Israel are one,” and thus they were joined with their Creator. This is what Hashem said to them before asking that they build the Sanctuary: “Let them take an offering for Me.” The foundation of the Sanctuary and the prerequisite for the dwelling of the Shechinah is that you take from yourselves an offering for Hashem. It is only when you continue to strengthen yourselves in the area of “we shall do and we shall hear” – by taking from yourselves an offering for Me, by devoting your entire being to Me, and by annulling yourselves before Hashem – that there is reason to continue by saying: “From every man whose heart motivates him, you shall take My offering.” At that point, you will be worthy for the Shechinah to truly dwell among you, and you will be able to connect with G-d and become one with Him. Taking this offering means an acquisition, to be taken and completely acquired by the Holy One, blessed be He, like an offering that is consecrated to Hashem.
This self-annulment expresses itself by accepting the Torah through the statement, “We shall do and we shall hear,” meaning that we have renounced our own opinions. The Torah continues with Hashem’s request to the Children of Israel: “Let them take an offering for Me” – by annulling themselves in regards to the Holy Torah. This is how the Midrash explains it: “Let them take an offering for Me. It is written, ‘For I have given you lekach tov [a good teaching]; do not forsake My Torah’ [Mishlei 4:2]” (Shemot Rabba 33:1). The Torah and the Sanctuary are connected to one another. In fact the fusion of the Jewish people with their Creator began at the giving of the Torah through “we shall do and we shall hear,” and it ended with the lekicha (literally “taking”) of the Jewish people, a term used for the kiddushin. The Jewish people will therefore be acquired by their Creator through ve’yikchu (“let them take an offering for Me”), through the power of lekach tov, a good teaching, meaning through the Torah which they accepted.
We can now fully understand the verse, “Let them take an offering for Me” – which our Sages have interpreted to mean: “For Me – for My Name.” When the Jewish people are united with their Creator, they truly carry His Name, for they are one. As we know, the entire Torah is composed of the Names of the Holy One, blessed be He. Furthermore, the Jewish people are also alluded to in the words of the Torah. In fact the term Yisrael (“Israel”) is an acronym for Yesh Shishim Ribo Otiyot Latorah (“There are 600,000 letters in the Torah” – this corresponding to the number of the Children of Israel). The letters of the Torah are the Names of the Holy One, blessed be He. Now it is written, “Then all the peoples of the earth will see that the Name of Hashem is proclaimed over you, and they will fear you” (Devarim 28:10). When the Children of Israel do the will of G-d by annulling themselves before Him and by cleaving to Him, His Name dwells upon them. Hence “they will fear you” – when non-Jews see the Jewish people, they will see, as it were, the Holy One, blessed be He, in person. This is what constitutes, “For Me – for My Name,” meaning that when you take yourself for Me and for My Name, you are “taken” (consecrated) at the same time, becoming part of the Name of the Holy One, blessed be He.
When the Jewish people reach this level – the level of “we shall do and we shall hear,” making themselves into a complete acquisition of Hashem in order to become a holy offering for Him – He then says, “I will dwell among them” – literally in them: I will descend and become one with them so that we reside together, like a married couple that forms a single body. First comes an awakening below by means of, “Let them take an offering for Me,” by belonging to G-d, and then comes an awakening above: “I will dwell among them.”
We find an allusion to this idea in the last letters of the expression Ve’yikchu li terumah (“Let them take an offering for Me”), which has the same numerical value as the Name E-yeh, the Name of G-d that contains the Jewish people. As we know, this Name demonstrates the unity and connection of the Jewish people with Hashem, “I will be with them” (Shemot 3:14; see Ohr HaChaim ad loc.). The Name E-yeh is also alluded to in the initials of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the Patriarchs of the nation, men through whom the connection of the Jewish people with Hashem began, and who were completely connected to Him and annulled themselves before Him.
When the Jewish people reach the level of, “Let them take an offering for Me,” meaning complete self-annulment before G-d, their offering for the Sanctuary will be with true generosity. In fact since they will feel united with G-d, when they give for the Sanctuary they will feel that they are giving for themselves. This is the gift of a willing heart, the greatest gift possible. When a man gives to his son, he is happy to give and does so with all his heart. How much more when he gives to himself. Likewise when a Jew is united with G-d, it is truly himself that he is giving through his offering to Hashem. This is true generosity, to be of one heart with Hashem. It results in a gift that comes from the very root of life, meaning the heart, with the greatest sense of connection, a connection to the Creator with every part of the heart.