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The silver of the census of the community was a hundred talents… a half shekel for everyone who passed through the census-takers... The hundred talents of silver were used to cast the sockets of the Sanctuary… (38:25-27)
The previous Parasha details the construction of the Tabernacle and its associated structures. This Parasha opens with the details of what happened to the gold, and the silver of the half-shekel collection (detailed earlier in 30:11-16). They were weighed, and then processed to become building materials for the Tabernacle items. Only after that, does the Parasha detail the making of the priestly garments.
Why are the fates of the gold and silver contributions related at this point, in the narrative of the Tabernacle, between the construction of the Tabernacle and the making of the priestly garments? Why does this section not precede the entire construction of the Tabernacle - and come straight after Moses' ordering the Israelites not to bring any further contributions to the Tabernacle? (36:6) After all, by the time the contributions had been counted in the narrative, they had already been manufactured into the various items detailed in the Parasha.
In response, it may be suggested that the opening of the Parasha does not only separate the construction of the Tabernacle and the making of the priestly garments. It also separates that which was changeable and that which was not changeable. For the making of the Tabernacle as a whole was changeable. The dimensions of the Tabernacle and the details of several of the vessels were not the same as in the First Temple, which in turn were neither identical with the Second Temple (as detailed in the Talmud: Middot), nor with the Temple of Ezekiel's vision (Ez. 40-43). But the garments of the High Priest, and the other priests, were never actually substituted for something of different design. In principle, they were permanent.
This section relating the fates of the gold and silver contributions at this point precedes the making of the priestly garments, because it also has an element of permanence - namely it teaches an unchanging value in the sphere of human nature. For there were, and are, two legitimate ways of financing worthy causes - buildings for worship, education, relief of poverty, or any other project improving the well-being of those in need. One is by means of voluntary donations, and the other is through a uniformly applied scheme of taxation. They both have their place, and they indeed complement one another. They enable everyone to associate by being able to take part, and they make way for 'those who have' to utilize their greater resources to 'supplement' the project to fruition. For when a cause is supported entirely at the discretion of 'those who have', they may become resentful in having the entire burden cast on them. And 'those who have much less' feel disassociated - the project is a millionaires' club only… not for them.
But this dual method has dual benefits - which, from the view of human nature are permanent. Those benefits are that they promote unity in the community by allowing all to work towards a common worthy cause. And they enable it to be bought to fruition by co-opting 'those who have', who will no doubt be happy to give according to their greater means when they see that the entire community is pulling its weight and not just leaning on them.
For those after more comprehensive material, questions and answers on the Parasha may be found at www.shemayisrael.co.il/parsha/solomon/questions/ and on the material on the Haftara at www.shemayisrael.co.il/parsha/solomon/haftara/ .
Written by Jacob Solomon. Tel 02 673 7998. E-mail: email@example.com for any points you wish to raise and/or to join those that receive this Parasha sheet every week.
Parashiot from the First, Second, and Third Series may be viewed on the Shema Yisrael web-site: http://www.shemayisrael.co.il/parsha/solomon/archives/archives.htm
Also by Jacob Solomon:
This article is provided as part of Shema Yisrael Torah Network
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