I can remember feeling a hidden disappointment when my children would forget my birthday.
They apologized, of course. And it was understandable that they would forget. Their lives were busy and they were not at home with me. And truth is I have the least right to complain. I forget birthdays all the time. But it did bother me. And rather than be resentful I decided to do something different. A few weeks before my birthday I told my children that my birthday was coming up and I would really like it if they sent me a card.
Now you may say how can that be satisfying to you? If they don't remember and only send the card when you ask for it what possible joy can you have in it?
Well look at this weeks Parsha...Hashem asks "v'yikchu lee truma" "take for me a gift offering".
In raising the materials for the building of the mishkan Hashem does not leave it to the people to choose to give...He asks for their gifts...and in specific terms...He names each of the materials He wants given, from gold and silver to the dyed cloth. True the gifts were given with a generosity of spirit. But it is clear, they were given in response to a request from Hashem. Is that any different from me asking for my birthday card.
In fact, to be candid, I found the cards I got in response to my request very satisfying. In some ways they were more satisfying than cards I had gotten in the past when they were simply the result of the self motivation of the sender. Our sages would have understood that. They taught "gadol metzuve v'oseh..." Greater is the act of one who is commanded to do Hashem's will than the act of someone who seeks to please Hashem through his/her spontaneous gesture.
And the reason is clear if not immediately obvious. When we do the will of the Divine, that itself is the greatest gift we give Him. We subjugate our own will to do His. When we give a gift of our own desire we are indeed loving Hashem, but what we are doing is in alignment with our will ,not turning our will over to Him.
Both in the idea of the mishkan and in the construction to the very last detail, it was important that we be responding to the request/command of Hashem. The house of the Shekhina, to be worthy of its mission, needed more than generous hearts. It needed a people ready to turn over its will to the will of the Divine. We were called to build G-d's house...not the people's house with G-d's name attached to it.
That for me is the meaning of the perplexing verse "v'asu lee mikdash v'shachanti b'tocham"..."and you shall build for me a sanctuary that I may dwell in them". It should say and I will dwell in it...after all we are talking about the sanctuary...what does it mean in them....I believe the answer is that if we truly build the sanctuary for Hashem, as the beginning of the verse asks, and we turn over our will to His in all its construction, then indeed He will be dwelling in us. For we have become aligned with Hashem and there is a continuity between the mishkan and we the people of Israel.
So you see when I asked my children to send me a birthday card and they did, it pleased me very much. More than the value of the card or any material gift, the gift they gave me was that they chose to do what I asked of them. They aligned there will to mine...Their is no greater gift anyone can give another...nor in truth any greater expression of love.
So maybe we can learn something here...Asking for what we want is not a bad thing...And rather than secretly pout or lament that we didn't get what we hoped for..if we ask we can experience the love of others who really would abide our requests and give us the most precious gift of aligning their will with ours..if only for a moment.
And would that we do the same for the ones we love. Invite them to tell us their desires so we can offer them a gift far beyond the dollars any offering may cost. We can surrender our will to the will of the ones we love, if only for a moment. Do their bidding and in the process they will know a love deep and satisfying.