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Silver Sockets

Gold, silver, copper, furs, wood, and cloth of purple, scarlet and gold. The Jewish people in the desert eagerly brought forth their most treasured possessions to use in erecting the Mishkan, a temporary sanctuary for G-d. The sanctuary was portable, and was taken down and set up again during each of their encampments in the desert.

There were actually three types of terumot, contributions, that were brought by the Jewish people. One contribution, of a half-shekel per head, was used to pay for the communal offerings. Another half-shekel was collected from each individual to use in constructing the silver sockets, which formed the base on which the entire structure of the sanctuary rested. The third terumoh consisted of all the other materials and precious stones and metals, which each individual brought “according to the generosity of his heart.” There was no minimum or maximum contribution; everyone contributed whatever he or she wished.

For the communal offerings, it’s not hard to understand why everyone gave equally. The purpose of the offerings was to “atone for their souls,” to atone for the sin of the Golden Calf. The sin affected all the Jews, even those who did not directly participate. Even Moses himself, who wasn’t present at the time, was spiritually affected by the sin. Therefore, to atone for the communal sin, it was necessary to bring a communal offering. Therefore, all the Jews contributed equally, one half shekel per person.

What about the silver sockets? Why was a special collection of a half-shekel per head made just for this purpose, whereas all other materials for the sanctuary were donated freely?

The sockets were the lowest part of the sanctuary, yet served as its foundation. The entire structure rested on those silver sockets.

Each of us has a personal sanctuary within our own heart. “And they shall make for Me a sanctuary and I shall dwell in their midst.” G-d did not say that He will dwell in its midst—within the sanctuary—but in their midst, in the midst of the Jewish people. In this personal sanctuary, all the parts of the Mishkan are present, including the base.

The spiritual base of the Sanctuary is our humility and dedication to G-d, giving up our will for His. This giving over of oneself is equal for everyone—the wisest or the most ignorant, the oldest to the youngest, the richest to the poorest. All of us stand before G-d equally humble, equally prepared to do His will, whatever He requires of us. Since the trait of humility is equal for everyone, the contribution of silver to construct the base was likewise equal for everyone.

On the other hand, when it comes to other forms of divine service, there can be differences in the way we serve G-d. One prefers study, the other prefers prayer, a third excels in good deeds and acts of kindness. Each of us must dedicate our personal traits, talents, skills and aptitudes to G-d. Therefore, all other donations for the Sanctuary were “according to the desire of one’s heart,” whatever each person wished to bring.

In preparing for the final Redemption, we also bring gifts to G-d, of our wealth as well as our inner, personal treasures, to dedicate to G-d and beautify the world, which will become His sanctuary. Yet, most important of all, we must never forget the humility, the foundation of the entire structure. All of us are equal before G-d.

(Based on an address of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Likutei Sichot vol. 1, p. 162)



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