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ששת ימים תעשה מלאכה וביום השביעי יהיה לכם קדש

On six days work may be done, but the seventh day shall be holy for you. (35:2)

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Rashi teaches that, in the text, the mitzvah of shemiras Shabbos precedes the building of the Mishkan to warn us that shemiras Shabbos overrides the building of the Mishkan. Interestingly, in Parashas Ki Sisa (preceding the creation of the molten Gold Calf), the Torah introduces the mitzvah of building the Mishkan prior to mentioning the injunction concerning Shabbos. The Chidushei HaRim explains that, prior to the sin of the Golden Calf, the six weekday/workdays prepared for Shabbos Kodesh. (Shabbos was the focal point of the week, with each day bringing one closer to the ultimate goal of Shabbos Kodesh.) After the cheit ha’eigel, the nation needed their Shabbos observance to elevate them to the point that they be worthy of building the Mishkan.

We understand from the above that the nation’s participation in the Golden Calf debacle harmed them spiritually. They plummeted from the unprecedented level of kedushah they achieved when they received the Torah. A number of spiritual deficiencies seemed to “occur” following their sin. They lost the crowns of Naase v’nishma: “We will listen, and we will do” (placed on them by Heavenly Angels). Moshe Rabbeinu appeared to have some difficulty grasping the idea of the machatzis ha’shekel, half shekel, every Jew was to donate. Horav Zev Weinberger, zl, explains that, following their sin, Moshe did not see how they could have the nedivus halev, heartfelt donations, that were necessary for the building of the Mishkan. Hashem showed Moshe a fiery coin (representing the half-shekel). This hinted to Moshe that actually the intrinsic sanctity of the Jew did not become tarnished. The “other half” shekel in Heaven corresponded to the one on earth. If the people make their attempt, Hashem will connect the coins. Clearly, a sad change occurred in the nation’s spiritual integrity.

Rav Weinberger adds that much more was expected of the nation prior to their sin. Indeed, we find that the Nesiim, Princes, were censured (a yud was removed from their name), because they were “late” in donating to the Mishkan. Veritably, they acted l’shem Shomayim, for the sake of Heaven, when they declared, “Let the nation donate, and we will guarantee the balance.” They did not expect the extraordinary outpouring of contributions from the people. Thus, they were left with no reason to give. At least they tried; they meant well. Why hold it against them? The commentators explain that at the very root of their offer was a minute tinge of indolence, a sort of laziness unbecoming men of their stature. Rav Weinberg posits that this tinge of indolence was evidenced only relative to the nation’s spiritual standing prior to the sin of the Golden Calf. It would not have been noticed after the nation’s drop in spiritual status.

Alacrity to perform a mitzvah is measured on a variant barometer. In other words, the greater one is with regard to his spiritual performance, the greater will be his alacrity to perform mitzvos and good deeds. He relates that Horav Menachem Porush, zl, was called by the Brisker Rav, zl, on erev Shabbos to write a letter of support for a Jew in need [Rav Porush was a member of the Knesset and a powerful figure in Eretz Yisrael]. The Rav dictated the letter, and Rav Porush signed it. The Rav instructed Rav Porush to go to the post office immediately to mail it. “Why?” he asked, “No mail is delivered on Shabbos. I can mail it tomorrow night.” The Brisker Rav’s response should rouse us from a spiritual slumber. “Who knows if we will be alive Motzoei Shabbos?” When one performs a chesed, act of kindness, for a Jew, he has no room for any kind of indolence.

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