“Vayavo’u kol hachachamim ha’osim es kol mileches hakodesh ish ish m’milachto… marbim ha’am l’havi…” (34:4-5). A skilled craftsman has to be able to estimate the quantity of materials needed to do a job before he begins. Here, the Torah tells us that the craftsmen making the Mishkan came from their work, seemingly in the middle of the job, and told Moshe that the people had brought more than enough. Why didn’t they realize they had too much material before they began?
The Ksav Sofer answers by being medayek in the Torah‘s description of the craftsmen given a few pesukim earlier: “V’kol ish chacham lev… asher nasan Hashem chochma u’tevunah ba’heima la’da’as la’asos es kol mileches hakodesh l’kol asher tzivah Hashem” (34:1). A carpenter, jeweler, or craftsman is blessed by Hashem with certain skills, but these craftsmen could just as well use their skills to build a house, make a fine piece of jewelry, or fashion a beautiful piece of furniture as to make a Mishkan. The Torah here is not speaking about such people. It is talking about people who were blessed specifically with ability to do, “…mileches hakodesh l’kol asher tzivah Hashem,” the work of making a Mishkan – they could not use those skills and ability in any other area! These were not craftsmen or professionals who came to the job already in possession of certain skill set – these were people who came with no prior experience or training, with nothing more than their desire to help. Hashem blessed these people with a special bracha that enabled them to translate that desire into “mileches hakodesh” even if they had never done such work before.
The Midrash comments that the word “ba’heima” has the same letters as “beheima,” animal, hinting that Hashem even endowed animals with intelligence to help in the building of the Mishkan. Perhaps the Midrash is not meant to be taken literally, but is meant to emphasize that the skills used in building the Mishkan were a bracha given by Hashem in this special circumstance to even those born with two left hands, those who otherwise had no innate abilities and were no more skilled than animals.
It’s no wonder that these people did not realize in advance whether they had enough or too much material to do the work needed. They were literally learning (or being blessed with the knowledge needed) on the job as they did their work.
This idea is a klal gadol in accomplishing in Torah and avodah. “What do you want from me? – I don’t have the ability to do that,” is an easy excuse to avoid trying to rise to the next level of learning, of avodah, of making the effort to accomplish tzorchei tzibur. We assume the lamdan was born with genius, the ba’al avodah was born with great ability to concentrate in davening, the person who is a ba’al tzedoka or chessed always had that drive. But that’s not the case. What these people had more than anyone else is desire. If that ingredient is in place, even if we lack ability, Hashem will provide the skills and knowledge it takes, “la’asos es kol mileches hakodesh.”
This same theme is echoed in the closing of Parshas Pekudei. Rashi (39:33) writes that because Moshe did not have any job to do in building the Mishkan, Hashem left him with the final task of erecting the structure once it was completed. The boards and beams were too heavy to be lifted into place and the people were stuck. Hashem told Moshe that this was his personal task to accomplish. Moshe asked, “But how can I alone lift the boards?” Hashem answered that he just needed to make the effort; the rest will be accomplished by a miracle.
“K’chol asherh tzivah Hashem es Moshe kein asu Bnei Yisrael es kol ha’avodah” (39:42). Just as Hashem commanded Moshe – just as Hashem told Moshe that all he needed was to make an effort and Hashem would do the rest – so too with respect to the work of Bnei Yisrael. It was not the skill of the craftsman or the architects and engineers that ensured the success of the building, as even those with no skills or experience were free to participate. It was Hashem’s miraculous bracha. The overt miracle of the raising of the boards was the sign that even the success of the little details was the result of miraculous intervention as well.