“And Hashem spoke to Moshe to tell him, ‘Speak with Bnei Yisroel and they should take for me their contributions, according to the offering of each person’s heart, they should take my contribution.’”
The verse discusses the contributions each person was able to bring for the Mishkan. It is therefore puzzling why the verse uses the word “take” instead of “bring.” Contributions can only be brought – not taken. This strange choice of words is used twice in the same verse, and appears to be redundant.
Rashi explains the words “according to the offering of each person’s heart,” to mean that the contributions were brought voluntarily. Why does Rashi have to mention this? The verse is a call for all who wish to contribute voluntarily. There was no compulsory tax of valuables.
The Midrash says (Shemos Rabbah 49:1), “Many waters cannot extinguish the love and rivers cannot wash it away.” The Midrash explains that the love of Klal Yisroel to Hashem is so great that “many waters,” which is an analogy to the nations of the world who wish to destroy the Jewish people, cannot extinguish this love.
There is another Midrash (Tanchuma Teruma 9) that says, Hashem told the Jewish people (Malachi 1:2), “I love you, says Hashem, and if you will ask Me with what I love you, wasn’t Eisav Yakov’s brother? [I tell you that] I love Yakov and I despise Eisav.”
This exchange seems strange. Why would the Jewish people doubt Hashem’s declaration of love? Why would the fact that Eisav was Yakov’s brother affect Hashem’s love of the Jewish people? And if it would, how does Hashem’s reply put them at ease? Even if Eisav is despised by Hashem, he still remains Yakov’s brother.
We can explain all this with the concept found in the Gemara (Kiddushin 40a) that there is a difference between a Jew and a non-Jew when it comes to intentions. A Jew is rewarded for his good deeds, and also for his good intentions, for they are counted as good deeds. If a Jew wanted to do a mitzvah but was unable to do it in the end, it is considered as if he did it. However, if a Jew decided to commit a transgression and then refrained from doing it, even though it is a very serious thing to decide to commit an aveira, Hashem still doesn’t count it as if he actually did it.
On the other hand, a non-Jew’s good intentions are not counted as good deeds. If he had in mind to do a mitzvah but he wasn’t able to do it in the end, it is not considered as if he actually did the mitzvah. However, if he had in mind to harm a Jew but Hashem protected the Jew and he was unable to fulfill his intentions, Hashem counts it as if he did commit the crime.
As Hashem declares in the above-cited Midrash, he loves us very much. But unfortunately, Eisav’s power is very strong and he manages to tear many Jewish children away from Hashem. Parents invest so much in their children’s chinuch, but times are difficult and many of them get swept away in the tides of the times. Eisav is long dead, but his heavenly angel is the Satan who has a lot of power in this world. Rabbi Nachman of Breslav had long since written that before the coming of Mashiach a mighty “flood” will take place – a flood of heresy and doubt which will drown many Jews in sin and transgressions. How many parents have seen their precious children being swept away by the current, unable to save them?
So Bnei Yisroel ask Hashem, “With what do you love us? Isn’t Eisav Yakov’s brother? Isn’t he tearing away thousands of our finest and purest children? How can we be sure of your love, in view of what’s happening?”
Hashem replies: “I love Yakov and I despise Eisav.” I know that every Jew wants to do what’s right; every Jew wants to please Me and keep the Torah. When I see a Jew who became a spiritual victim of the Satan, I know that it is truly Eisav’s fault. The Jew wants to be good but Eisav is keeping him from fulfilling his sincere desire. When Mashiach will come and Eisav will be unable to come between Hashem and His people, the true desires of the Jewish people will finally be realized. Hashem will then count their good intentions as good deeds, and they will all appear righteous before Hashem. The strong love Hashem has for His people will become clear to all, and at the same time the blame for their past sins will be laid at Eisav’s feet. “I despise Eisav. Even when Klal Yisroel is full of sin, I know that it is all Eisav’s fault and I despise him – not you.”
“Many waters cannot extinguish this love!” Even if a Jew appears to have fallen very low, Hashem still loves him. His innermost core is still pure and holy, and deserving of Hashem’s love. In the end he too will do tshuva. Not a single Jew will remain lost forever!
This is the meaning of the words “take for me,” and Rashi’s explanation that the contributions were given voluntarily. Hashem exhorts Bnei Yisroel to “take Him,” to choose Him by following the natural desires of their heart. The verse testifies that in every Jewish heart lies a sincere desire to choose (interchangeable with “take”) righteousness. It is mentioned twice in the verse, to include those who fall behind initially and need a second reminder, a second chance, to tear themselves away from Eisav and follow the truest desire of their hearts to be close to Hashem.
May Hashem indeed display His love for us, for the entire world to see, with the coming of Moshiach, Amen.