יש זהב ורב פנינים וכלי יקר שפתי דעת.
יש זהב, הכל הביאו נדבתן למשכן זהב, הה"ד: (שמות כה) וזאת התרומה וגו
. ורב פנינים, זו נדבתן של נשיאים, דכתיב: (שם לה) והנשיאים הביאו וגו'.
וכלי יקר שפתי דעת, לפי שהיתה נפשו של משה עגומה עליו ואמר: הכל הביאו נדבתן למשכן ואני לא הבאתי!
א"ל הקב"ה: חייך, שדיבורך חביב עלי יותר מן הכל, שמכולן לא קרא הדיבור, אלא למשה, ויקרא אל משה
The Midrash opens VaYikra by highlighting the generosity of the people and the princes in their giving of gold and precious gifts to the Mishkan. Yet, Moshe was sad, as he had not given any gift. Hashem responded by telling Moshe that convsering with him is more valuable than all the gifts in the world, as no one else was called to speak with Hashem – “VaYikra el Moshe…”
The obvious question: why should Moshe have been sad? No one stopped him from giving a gift – if he wanted to, he could have given something just like everyone else!
Excuse me for explaining the Shem m’Shmuel here the way I did to my kids. My daughter really wants a certain watch and a specific pair of sneakers; to her these are very significant items (unfortunately). If my daughter wanted to show how much she loved the Mishkan, there is no question in my mind what she would donate to it -- she would give up that watch or sneakers (if she had them). That would be a real sacrifice, a real show of commitment.
Sounds like a silly example, but the grown-up world is much the same. Wow! – Ploni gave his preferred stock to the shul; Ploni did even better and plunked down a quarter of a million dollars of his hard earned money to dedicate a classroom; Plonis gave that expensive diamond necklace to auction and dedicated the proceeds to the yeshiva. What dedication! What we hold dear and significant may change as we get older, but the feeling of sacrifice that makes a gift of those items into a show of commitment remains the same.
But along comes the poor kollel guy and he wonders how he fits into this. He has no preferred stock, he has no windfall, his wife doesn’t have a diamond necklace, and here’s the most important point – he doesn’t want any of those things! All he wants is to sit and learn. B’shlama if you devote yourself to accumulating cute little watches, or preferred stock, or whatever your heart desires in the world, then you can give yourself a big well deserved pat on the back for giving up that object of desire for the sake of a higher purpose. There is a real kvishas ha’yetzer here, and I don’t mean to belittle it! But if all you do is sit in the Beis Medrash and you don’t know from preferred stock of diamonds or watches, and all that is valuable to you is how R’ Chaim’s chiddush answers a kasha of the Ketzos, what’s your gift? What are you going to give up to show your dedication and commitment?
Just to be clear: I’m not speaking about the guy who has nothing to give up but wishes he was a millionaire who did – the point here is more subtle than that. I am speaking about the guy who even if he had a million dollars would feel just the same as if he had an overdrawn checkbook because it just doesn't matter to him (or her). Tosfos (Avodah Zarah 11a) asks how the gemara on the one hand can tell us that Rebbi had vegetables on his table all year, a sign of luxury when produce could not be flown in from all over the world, yet on the other hand Chazal tell us that on his deathbed Rebbi held up his fingers and said that he had taken no benefit from this world. What about the spread on his table?! R’ Tzadok answers that there is no contradiction. Rebbi had the required trappings of the Nasi, including wealth, but it had no impact on his personality or value system. Sneakers or preferred stock, diamonds or watches, to the likes of Rabbi Yehudah haNasi, to Moshe Rabeinu, having these valuable commodities gave them no added pleasure, and parting with them would be no challenge.
This is what bothered Moshe. It's not that Moshe lacked gold and silver to donate as a gift -- it's that his gift, davka because all that is material meant so little to him, could not be given with the same feeling of sacrifice l'shem shamayim that others achieved through their gifts. And ultimately, it's that spirit of sacrifice, not the glitter of the gold, which Hashem cherished.
The ohr which came from the transformation of the choshech of material desire into a spirit of giving was, to Moshe’s eyes, brighter even than the light of untainted goodness which shone in his heart.
I should explain the conclusion of the Midrash, but I think this is enough for now. We are not Moshe Rabeinu or Rabbi Yehudah haNasi. I assume most of us work for a living, and especially in tight economic times, we value our dollars and worry about finances. So when a simple ba'al habayis gives kimcha d’pischa, helps pack boxes for a Tomchei Shabbos or some other organization, helps others with their needs, and sacrifices a little bit of what he/she values for the sake of a fellow Jew, he or she should know that they have performed an act that even Moshe Rabeinu would envy.