Rabbi Yaakov Neuberger
Rabbi Yaakov Neuburger

Give "Like a Man"

Would the mishkan have been a Federation project, I suggest that their fundraising signs placed in front of all participating shuls would probably read: "give like a man". I say that because the Torah stresses that the Mishkan donations should be taken from, "mikol ish hasher yidvenu lee'bo - from every man whose heart motivates him". We know that these instructions did not intend to exclude women, and indeed women's donations were very well appreciated for the alacrity with which they were delivered. If so, what are we to learn from the seemingly unnecessary emphasis on "ish/ man"? The text would read very well were it to say, "Take from all that will give with a generous heart".

Interestingly the Zohar in non-mystical digression (I think) explains that "ish" refers to the triumphant soul, the person who has struggled within and prevailed. A ccordingly, Moshe is instructed to collect donations for the Mishkan exclusively from Jews who struggled, albeit briefly, whether to part with their material goods and become an integral part of the Mishkan.

The Zohar's teaching adds texture to earlier references of "ish" in the Torah. The very first time that the word appears, always an instructive guide to the nuances of the Torah, is, "al kein ya'azov ish es aviv v'imo". Here "ish" refers to the groom who overcomes the doubts that come with leaving the familiarity and unconditional love of his parents' home to the uncharted course of establishing a new singular bond with his wife.

Early in Shemos Moshe is accused of appointing himself as an authority or judge over his peers and is rhetorically censured, (2:14) "who placed you as an ish officer and judge over us". In fact Moshe is recognized here as one who rejected the comforts and safety of a palace life and tested himself with the risks and inherent dangers of sharing the oppression of his brethren.

At first blush the Zohar's interpretation of the possuk "mikol ish hasher yidvenu lee'bo - from every man whose heart motivates him" seems to be inconsistently tapping the person who both struggles and is unstintingly generous at once. Thus the Zohar reads the possuk as asking that the donor has an unstinting interest in bringing Hashem into our midst rather the absolute generosity that seems to be demanded. In other words the Zohar reads the possuk as to say, "Build my Mishkan with donors whose passion to have a Mishkan will triumph over any possible reservations."

Quite possibly the struggles of our "ish"may have included the lingering doubts that accompanied storing the acacia wood that Yaakov taught them to hold close or the chilazon-dyed wool tucked in their closets throughout centuries of oppression . The donors had to be those individuals whose belief in our destiny to live with Hashem was so visceral that it would simply diminish any uncertainties and hesitations.

Thus on one hand the Mishkan invited and insisted on the involvement of every Jew to some small measure in its construction and in its ongoing service. However, its core and in its mainstay had to be comprised of the few whose passion was steadfast, tried and well tested all at once.

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