Vayakhel: Enough Or Too Much?

Building the Mishkan

“For the material was sufficient for all the work to do it, and too much.” – Ex. 36:7

In this week’s Torah portion Vayakhel, Moses conveys God’s instructions for building the Mishkan (Tabernacle), the portable Tent of Meeting where Moses communes with God and the Israelites make sacrifices during their forty years in the desert. 

Before the Mishkan can be constructed, Moses asks the people to bring the necessary materials and they enthusiastically comply, bringing gifts such as precious metals, colorful fabrics, animal skins, olive oil and jewels. In fact, the Israelites are so eager to participate in this holy project that they bring too much and Moses has to tell them to stop donating.

The Torah tells us that “the material was sufficient” and then says it was “too much.” So which is it, did the people donate just enough, or did they donate too much? Rabbi Benjamin A. Rose explains that if the donations comprised exactly enough to make the Mishkan, each Jew might think, “Without me there would be no Mishkan!” This could lead to pomposity, which would chase away the Divine presence because God abhors arrogance. 

But if there were too many donations, some of them would have to be left out of the construction. The people would worry that maybe it was their contribution that wound up “on the cutting room floor.” They might even feel broken-hearted, but actually that’s the ideal state in which to welcome God into the Mishkan! As it is written, “the Lord is near to the broken-hearted” (Ps. 34:19)

The amount of donations was perfect, precisely because there was too much!

Dedicated by Arlene and Evan Yegelwel

Image: Building the Tabernacle, by Gerard Hoet, 1728

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