Rashi tells us that the word Vayakhel, “and assembled,” is written in the hifil, causative, to teach us that Moshe Rabbeinu did not gather the people directly. Rather, he caused them to gather themselves. What is Rashi teaching us? Certainly, he did not gather them by hand. The Satmar Rebbe, z.l,. explains that the objective of this assembly was unique in that Moshe sought to assemble only those who were Jews, not members of the eirev rav, mixed multitude, the creators of the eigel, Golden Calf. Moshe was not assembling people “by hand,” for no specific purpose other than to make an assembly. No! Moshe sought to gather together the Jews of the same weltanschauung, perspective on life.
One can gather a group of people together for the purpose of having a group – or one can gather a group of people together in a manner that suggests that he is the one in charge of the group, such that his perspective guides the entire group. Moshe wanted the group to be as one: one G-d; one Torah; one leader – Moshe Rabbeinu. Moshe’s words were the koach ha’me’achaid, force/glue that was the mutual bond between them. Every assembly must have a goal in order for it to succeed. Their goal was realized, as they severed their relationship with the eirev rav and became one harmonious group.
Horav Yaakov Kaminetzky, z.l., takes a somewhat similar approach. He explains that when the Torah was given to Klal Yisrael, the Jewish People had achieved an unprecedented level of achdus, unity. They were k’ish echad b’lev echad, “as one person with one heart”. All their hearts beat as one. When the eigel was made, this unity was shattered. Indeed, the Talmud Yerushalmi, Sanhedrin 10:2 contends that each Shevet, tribe, had its own little eigel. Even then, they could not see eye to eye! Each one had his own individual perspective on how to rebel against Hashem! What a sad commentary on the Jewish People, suggesting that we have not changed much today. Every group that is not Torah-oriented has its own little eigel. Moshe Rabbeinu had to bring the people together first, under one banner with one outlook. He first had to make a vayakhel, and assemble the people together to give them one goal and one purpose. Then he could instruct them in the next step: building a Sanctuary.