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Friday, March 04, 2005

YaYakhel - When Too Much is Enough

והמלאכה היתה דים לכל המלאכה לעשות אותה, והותר

(שמות ל"ו, ז')

After a break of one week's parasha (and what a parasha it was!), the Torah goes back to the story of the building of the mishkan, the tabernacle that was the focus of worship during the years in the desert. All men and women of all tribes contributed to the mishkan, bringing gold, copper, textiles, wood - all that was necessary for the construction of God's tabernacle. The outpouring of giving was so large that Moshe needed to put a halt to it, asking the people to stop bringing their offerings. The Torah then says:

For the stuff they had was sufficient for all the work to make it, and too much.

(Shemot, 36, 7; KJV)

This pasuk is confusing. Either the stuff was "sufficient" or it was "too much". What is the Torah telling us? That only by there being too many offerings the condition of enough offerings was fulfilled?

One of the explanations for this strange wording is that the Torah wanted to teach Bnei Israel a lesson in humility. The situation can be explained by the following example. In a close race in a political electio both candidates are running neck-to-neck and the polls give no clear indication as to who would win. When the votes are all counted (and recounted), it turns out that the winner won by one vote only, no more no less. The winner is obviously delighted, but his jubilation is quickly overcast by the hundreds of voters who approach him in the days following his victory, saying: "You see! It was my vote that got you elected!".

This is the situation Moshe wanted to avoid. The accomplishment of completing the mishkan was remarkable. The joy of the people, who succeeded to build this temple to God from their donations, was enourmous. But imagine what could have happened had there been just enough contributions to complete the construction. This could have easily turned into a false send of pride, into a feeling of "kochi ve'etsem yadi": It was I who made the whole thing possible. If it weren't for my piece of gold, there would be no mishkan.

Therefore, it was only by having more than was necessary that Moshe could have avoided this turn of events and at the same time taught Bnei Israel an important lesson in humility. It is not our offering which turns the tide, it is God's will. The "too much" was necessary in order for it to be "sufficient".

The idea for this week's Parasha Thought is from R. Mordechai Kamenetzky.

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