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When Is Too Much Enough?

By: Rabbi Daniel Goldstein

Parshat Vayakhel presents a problem not usually encountered in the Jewish community. The Torah states: "All the wise men came--- who were executing all the holy tasks--- each and every man from the task in which he was engaged.They said the following to Moshe: the people are bringing too much--- more than is needed for the tasks which Ad-noy has commanded to execute.Moshe commanded--- and they proclaimed throughout the encampment saying, "Let no man or woman bring any more material for the sacred offering." And the people stopped bringing (Shemot 36:4-6). How are we to understand this "problem"? Why did Moshe feel the need to end the fundraising campaign and stop Bnei Yisrael from further contribution?

The Sfas Emes explains, " It seems that the Chachamim and those in charge of the work understood that the bringing more material exceeded the bounds of "giving from the heart". Therefore, Moshe commanded not to bring more, because the donations for the Mishkan had to be "from the heart", and it is better to do a little with the proper intention than a lot without the proper intention."

In the Sfas Emes' terse style, he explains the problem with too much giving. Bnei Yisrael were asked to give "from their heart" to build Hashem's house. However, once they brought more than enough, there was a suspicion that their intention was not to give for Hashem, but rather to give for their own self aggrandizement; after all, if it was purely for Hashem, they would have stopped. In order to make sure their intentions were pure, Moshe cut off the contributions.

However, the Or Hachaim takes a different approach. Says the Or Hachaim: "The material was enough for all the work that had to be done, and some was left over. These are opposites: if it was "enough", there should be no "left over", and if there was "left over", it wasn't "enough"…Perhaps, the meaning of the pasuk is to show the love Hashem had for Bnei Yisrael. Since Bnei Yisrael brought more than enough, Hashem was concerned for the feelings of each person who brought contributions to the House of Hashem for the building of the Mishkan (i.e., people would feel that there contribution was not used.) (And so) even though there was "more", meaning more than enough, He made it "enough" by means of a miracle.

According to Or Hachaim, the outpouring of gifts was taken by Hashem as a sign of love! His only concern was the feelings of the Bnei Yisrael who were bringing their contributions to the Mishkan.

It may look as though the Sfas Emes and Or Hachaim are suggesting opposite approaches, but when taken together, they are describing the two sides a successful relationship. In a successful relationship, each side should be selflessly concerned with the others needs. So while Moshe wanted stop the excess giving to make sure that the giving was selfless, Hashem viewed it as an act of love and, in turn, was concerned with making each Jew feel appreciated.
Shabbat Shalom