Monday, February 27, 2012

gold on the inside

I read a Midrash in last week's parsha (33:8) as a response to my ranting in the previous post.  The Midrash relates that when Hashem have Moshe the command to build a Mishkan, Moshe reacted with befuddlement.  "Is it possible for Bnei Yisrael to build this thing called a Mishkan?" he asked G-d.  Hashem responded that it was possible even for a single person to build it, as the pasuk says, "Mei'eis kol ish asher yadvenu libo," the money was collected from every man [singular] whose heart was filled with generosity.

Shem m'Shmuel asks: Why did Moshe doubt that Bnei Yisrael could build a Mishkan?  The gemara tells us that each and every person became a millionaire collecting the jewels and treasure from the drowned Egyptian army at Yam Suf.  Surely there was no lack of funds.

Secondly, what does Hashem's response mean?  Ramban tells us that while some of the resources collected to build the Mishkan was readily available, some were rare.  No one person had all the materials necessary in hand. It took the combined resources of the nation to assemble everything needed.  How then could Hashem say that the Mishkan could be built even by one person?

The answer to the first question is easy.  Moshe was not troubled by whether Bnei Yisrael had the funds to build a Mishkan -- he knew they did -- but rather he was troubled by whether Bnei Yisrael could really convert their material goods and monies into a "dirah batachtonim" for the Shechina.  The Mishkan was not just another building, another possession (albeit a large, communally owned possession) decked out in glamorous fashion. The gold and riches of the Mishkan were just window dressing for the spiritual power that was inside.  To build such a building required people who realized that gold and silver were just adornments for the deeper spiritual riches inside each person.

No one person had all the material resources needed to build the Mishkan at his disposal, but it was a shortage of spiritual riches more than a shortage of material goods which concerned Moshe.  Hashem responded that Moshe need not worry, as the Mishkan could be built by the singular ish, just one upright person. All it takes is one person who exemplifies the ideal to inspire others, who in turn will spread the word.  It's not the quantity of people which make the difference, but it's the quality of their belief which serves as the contagious spark that ignites others.

Even a miyuta she'bmiyuta, even a single ish, can make all the difference.


  1. Anonymous1:45 AM

    "the contagious spark" of a single
    Lamborghini ignition system fires
    up not just the given engine; it
    also "ignites" certain susceptible onlookers to supercharge their own automobiles (til the hours stuck in traffic are proudly, & sometimes loudly, worth the wait)

  2. perhaps you can even say that all of bnei yisroel are considered a single ish as dixie yid brings down so eloquently from the ohr hachaim -might also help next time you see something that makes you want to scream

  3. chaim b.9:48 PM

    I like your idea, but I don't think it fits the language of the Midrash here. If one person = the collective unified nation, then it makes no sense to say **even** one person could build the Mishkan, which implies that more people could certainly do the job better -- the point would be **davka** one person, i.e. when everyone works together as one, to the exclusion of the many. But there certainly are other ways to read this Chazal than the one I presented, so maybe you are on to something.