Ramban comments based on Midrash that the reason the Torah uses the term “v’asu es ha’aron,” in the plural even though the rest of the commands to build the Mishkan (and the aron as well) are in the singular is because each and every member of Klal Yisrael participated in the building of the aron. The symbolic message is obvious: each and every member of Klal Yisrael has some portion in Torah.
On a practical level, how exactly did everyone participate – what did they do? Ramban gives three possibilities: 1) They donated gold that was designated specifically for use in the aron; 2) They helped in the physical crafting of the aron; 3) They had kavanah.
It’s the third option that caught my attention. How exactly does kavanah count as participation? It sounds just like what managers do where I work – You guys bring the gold, you guys do the work, and I’ll stand here and supervise by thinking deep thoughts of kavanah. If the aron is the symbol of Torah, I’m even more perplexed. There are people who contribute to Torah by learning – the parallel to fashioning the aron. There are people who contribute to Torah by supporting Torah study – the parallel to donating gold for the aron. But can someone participate in Torah study by watching someone else learn or contribute and just having kavanah? How does that work?
I told my daughter (who I learned this Ramban with) that next time she forgets her homework she should tell the teacher that she had kavanah to do it and that's enough. I figure if she quotes this Ramban the teacher should give partial credit.