The parsha begins with the subject of donations toward the building of the Mishkan, with Hashem saying “take for Me a donation” from those who are in the category of a “nediv lev.”
What does nediv lev mean? Targum Yonatan ben Uziel explains that this is someone whose heart wants to give, but not by force. Well, if someone wants to give, obviously he won’t give by force! Why then does the Targum stipulate that such a person can’t give by force if he already preceded by saying he has to want to give? The Pirush Yonatan explains that one might have thought that if a significant amount of pressure is put upon a person to give, and finally due to the pressure he gives, such a donation would be accepted, for after all, at the end of the day he wanted to give even though the giving was induced by pressure. Thus, the Targum comes to teach “and not by force.” Similarly, Rashi explains that a nediv lev is someone who “has a good will.” A person with a good will certainly wouldn’t need pressure to give.
Nevertheless, R’ Moshe Feinstein asks, the term “take” when Hashem says “take for Me” in fact sounds somewhat forceful! Reb Moshe therefore explains that there’s a difference between giving and giving: There are some people who want to give, and there are others who want to give.
One person may not initiate to give on his own, but when asked, will give wholeheartedly. For him, the act of being asked was what propelled him to give. Such a person knows Hashem is “asking” for donations, and it’s specifically this unspoken request which moved him to give. However, another level is when a person on his own volition wants to give. Such a person doesn’t need to be asked, for he has transformed himself into a person who looks for ways to give. Even though there is an unspoken request here, he wouldn’t need this to move him to give. Says Reb Moshe, this is perhaps what it means “take,” to teach that a person reaches a level where he “takes” his nature, and transforms it into a nature whose essence actively seeks to give.
We see from here that the “nediv lev” were not just people who were happy to give when asked, but quite possibly were eager to give even without being asked.
Keeping this in mind, Rashi explains that the term “for Me” when Hashem says “take for Me,” comes to teach that when a person gives, he should give “lishmah”—for Hashem’s sake, because that’s what Hashem’s will is. R’ Henoch Leibowitz asks, we know that the Mishkan is being constructed for Hashem’s Shechinah to reside there, so isn’t it quite obvious that the donation being given will be given for Hashem sake? Why then does Hashem say to give donations “for Me”?
Additionally, based on the above we can even strengthen this question. For we are dealing with people who want to give, and quite possibly would give without even being asked. If so, aren’t such people surely giving for Hashem sake? Let’s say you have a loved one for whom you are always there for them for assistance and for whom you go out of your way to help. If this loved one was building a home and needs some funds or other help toward the construction, isn’t it obvious that your giving would be for his or her sake? Thus, if they are giving for the building of the Mishkan that is Hashem’s “house” it seems unnecessary to tell the donors to do it for Hashem’s sake!
Perhaps we can suggest that there are two aspects in an action of giving. On the one hand, the ideal of giving is to want to give without even being asked. On the other hand, there is an idea of doing it lishmah—for the sake of Hashem. One may be a truly good-hearted person, may love to give, and may also love the one whom he is giving to, but there is also another integral part of giving that can be lost in the action of giving and that is focusing our intentions when giving to be leshem shamayim—because ultimately this is Hashem’s will and what Hashem wants me to do.
Many people strive to serve Hashem with sincerity and because that’s what Hashem wants. Yet, generally speaking, even when we are not quite fully there yet in our intentions we are encouraged to still do because “from acting not for the sake of Hashem, one will eventually come to perform for the sake of Hashem” (מתוך שלא לשמה בה לשמה). If that’s so, asks R’ Yaakov Neiman, why by the building of the Mishkan did the donations have to be specifically lishmah? The commentators explain that since the construction is for Hashem’s Shechinah to dwell there, there is a greater need to contribute specifically lishmah—with totally pure intentions.
We may not have a Mishkan, but in truth the Mishkan is just a representation for the essence of a person (see Rabbeinu Bachya 25:9, and Da’at Torah, Teruma/Tetzaveh). Hence, we too can bring the Shechinah within us. Indeed, in reference to the Mishkan, Hashem says, “Make for me a holy place and I will dwell ‘betocham’” (25:8), and although “betocham” is typically translated “amongst them” the Alshich brings that the literal meaning is actually “within them.” Yet, even when striving toward such—by refining ourselves through Torah, mitzvot, mussar, etc.—based on the above, perhaps to really bring down Hashem’s Shechinah within ourselves, it may be integral to focus that our intentions in our good deeds and character development be lishmah—because it’s Hashem’s will.
Binyamin Benji is a graduate of Yeshivat Rabbeinu Yitzchak Elchanan and Wurzweiler School of Social Work. He can be reached at [email protected]