Parshas Vayakhel-Pekudai: Life Necessities

ויאמרו אל משה לאמר מרבים העם להביא מדי העבדה למלאכה אשר צוה ה' לעשת אתה

and they said to Moshe, “The people are bringing more than is needed for the tasks entailed in the work that Hashem has commanded to be done.”

Although it is true that one shall endeavor to do everything possible to fulfill a mitzvah, the halacha is that המבזבז אל יבזבז יותר מחומש (כתובות דף נ’) – one may only spend a maximum of twenty percent for a mitzvah. The Vilna Gaon finds a remez/hint to this halacha in the possuk in Parshas Ki Sisa, הֶֽעָשִׁ֣יר לֹֽא־יַרְבֶּ֗ה- The wealthy may not add. The trop above these words are munach revi’i, which means to say leave over 4/5 and only use up to 1/5.

That possuk is referring to the donations that would be used in order to build the Mishkan. However, in our parsha, the possuk states, when the people brought, they kept on bringing more and more without a limit. On this possuk, we do not find the hint to only spending 1/5 for mitzvos. Why were they not careful with this halacha?

On a simple level, we can answer that the amount of gold and silver that the Bnai Yisroel collected at the Yam Suf (bizas hayam) was so much that whatever they gave over here was still less than 1/5, so there was no issue giving what they gave.

Alternatively, the opinion of the Ra’avid (as quoted in the Rashba) is that the reason for this halacha is כדי שלא יבוא לידי עוני ויפיל עצמו על הצבור- that one shall not become poor and then end up as the communal responsibility. Between the daily man and the entire Bnei Yisroel’ s involvement in this mitzvah, this would not be a factor.

Additionally, the Chachmas Odam (144:6) writes that an ashir muflag is required to spend on mitzvos and tzeddaka a lot more than a chomesh. This is also the opinion of the Chafetz Chaim (Ahavas Chesed) and the psak of Rav Elyashiv zt’l. Therefore, we can explain that between the wealth which they took from Mitzrayim, and the daily man, not only was there no worry that it would result in poverty, but likely we can suggest that they would still be wealthy even after all that was given. We find support to this idea from the fact that Rabban Gamliel spent one thousand gold coins for an esrog (Masechta Sukkah 41b). As exorbitant as it was, in his position as nasi, he was a very wealthy person and he would certainly not fall on the shoulders of the community.

On a deeper level, the Baal Hatanya (Igerres Hateshuva) observes the story of Hillel Hazaken (Maseches Yoma 35b). Each day, Hillel would chop wood and earn one tropick (half dinar). Half of this money would be paid to the guard of the Beis Medrash as his entrance fee (to cover the shul expenses- Ben Yehoyada), and the other half would be given to his family for their daily needs. The Baal Hatanya asks: how did Hillel have a right to spend half of his earnings to go and learn Torah? What happened to the halacha of spending a maximum of 1/5 for mitzvos?

He so beautifully explains that we find, for example, that a person can spend on the purchase of his own home much more than a chomesh of all his money. Grocery bills, utility bills and all the other expenses, can very often add up to more than a chomesh as well. Why is that allowed? The answer of course is that when it comes to mitzvos, the Torah placed a limit of 1/5. But for life itself and one's own personal living expenses and needs, not only is there no limit, but one must do whatever is necessary to take care of these needs, even if it means going into debt.

Zogt der Baal Hatanya, for Hillel Hazaken, the money that he spent for the Beis Medrash was not for the mitzvah of learning Torah, but rather כי היא חייך- this is life itself! For Hillel, learning the hayliger Toirah was a need like any vital need of life, and therefore there was no limit of only being allowed to spend a chomesh.

The Meshech Chochma writes that the purpose of building the Mishkan changed from before the cheit ha’eigel to after. Initially, the Mishkan was meant to be a place to bring the korbanos. After the cheit ha’eigel, there was a new purpose. ושכנתי בתוכו- It was now being built to be the place of hashra’as haShechina.

Accordingly, the sefer Aish Tomid suggests that in Parshas Ki Sisa, it was for the mitzvah of building the mishkan for bringing korbanos. When it comes to a mitvah, there is an upper limit of a chomesh so the possuk needed the reminder of munach revi’I, i.e. do not exceed 1/5. However, in our parsha, it is after the cheit ha’eigel and we are no longer talking about the mitzvah of korbanos, but rather, the idea of housing the Shechina which is something that every Yid needs to have a connection with. Living a life that incorporates the Shechina Hakedosha is not just a mitzvah, but life itself and for that there is no limit!

Good Shabbos,     מרדכי אפפעל