For an explanation of the methodology of this series, see the introduction.

"Speak to the children of Israel, and have them take for Me an offering; from every person whose heart inspires him to generosity, you shall take My offering." (Exodus 25:2)

Peshat (basic meaning):

Rashi: and have them take for Me
"li" is literally - for me [but means here] dedicated to My name.

...G‑d possesses the entire universe.

Siftei Chachamim: The word "li" "for Me" cannot be understood as implying that the contribution must be given to G‑d, in the sense that He did not previously own it, for G‑d possesses the entire universe.

offering [means] hafrasha - literally, separation. They shall set apart from their property an offering for Me.

Siftei Chachamim: In other contexts this word "teruma" means "raising" but not here.

whose heart inspires him ["yidvenu libo"] is an expression of nedava; this is an expression of good will [a present]; in French, a gift.

you shall take My offering: Our Rabbis said: [The word] "teruma" is mentioned three times here, [denoting that] three offerings are mentioned here. One is the offering of a beka [half-shekel] per head, from which they made the sockets, as is delineated in parashat Pekudei (Exod. 38:26,27). Another is the offering of a beka per head for the [community] coffers, from which to purchase the communal sacrifices, and another is the offering for the Mishkan, each one's [Israelite's] donation (Talmud Yerushalmi, Shekalim 1:1; Meg. 29b). The thirteen materials mentioned in this section [i.e., this chapter] were all required for the work of the Mishkan or for the garments of the kohanim, [as you will find] when you study them closely (Tanchuma 5, Shir HaShirim Raba 4:25).

Siftei Chachamim: The 3 offerings are not stated here explicitly. They are [merely] alluded to by the [additional and seemingly superfluous] two appearances of the word "teruma" in this verse and the next.

Although Rashi gives the number 13 for items, there are 15 items mentioned. The torquoise wool, purple wool, and scarlet wool all count as one because they were made of the same material.

Remez (hinted meaning):

Baal HaTurim teruma, [literally] "a portion": The letters of this word can be rearranged to spell ToRaH-Mem. Mem, whose numerical value is 40, for the Torah that was given in 40 days which was given to those who eat terumah.
"me'et kol", "from every" whose gematria is 50, hinting to the average person's donation of 1/50th of his crop as Terumah.
"me'et kol", Also, the initial letters of these words have a gematria of 60, alluding to the miserly person's donation of 1/60th of his crop as Terumah.
The gematria of the phrase "to the Children of Israel and let them take for me as an offering" [1455] equals the gematria of "Only the Children of Israel should set aside Terumah, not the non-Jews."

Derash (interpretive meaning):

G‑d wished that each contribution be from the heart...

Ohr HaChayim: "v'yikachu"- [lit.] "and take"
The extra letter Vav in this word hints to the fact that something else preceded the compulsory levy—it was the spirit of generosity mentioned in the verse. The Torah speaks of various kinds of contributions made in connection with the building of the Mishkan. G‑d wished that each contribution be from the heart, for a person should not contribute until he first has a spirit of generosity in his heart.

from each man: indicates that the levy was equal size for each person from whom it was taken.

Maggid Mesharim: The secret of the matter is that Terumah/voluntary offering means Congregation of Israel. G‑d said that it should not be taken alone but only with malchut/kingship; only after they would be linked together would they elevate and become linked to the upper sefirot. This is what it says: "Li" meaning, "with Me."

me'et kal ish asher [lit. from every person that]: the term me'et refers to Congregation of Israel; "Kol/every" means yesod; "Ish/person" means tiferet. "Asher/which" signifies the 3 upper sefirot. "yidvenu libo/whose heart inspires him to generosity" is the place that he comes from, from that place that gives the abundance of blessings and life to the heart, that is to tiferet. Upon linking these sefirot, you shall take for Me the voluntary offering meant for Me, that is Congregation of Israel.

Let them take a voluntary offering for me relates to "make for Me a sanctuary." For holy matters one must say "this is for the holy matter." When doing something else, one should say, "this is for the sake of the holy matter." [like the custom to say "lichvod Shabbat Kodesh" upon all one tastes on the Holy Shabbat – Ed.]

Lubavitcher Rebbe: The contributions to the Mishkan have 2 dimensions:
(1) the act of donation, which removes the contribution from the owner's private possession, the realm of the mundane.
(2) the act of collection: which elevates the contribution to become the property of the Mishkan
This shows 2 types of service to the Divine:
(1) refraining from evil: by which a person removes from himself undesirable habits.
(2) doing good: through which he elevates this world toward perfection for which it was originally intended.
...the act of donation did not have to be accompanied with holy intention, whereas the act of collection did. Practically, the act of donation did not have to be accompanied with holy intention, whereas the act of collection did. This teaches us that when we refrain from doing bad, the purity of our intentions is not paramount. But when we do good deeds and mitzvot, we make a "home" for G‑d in this world, and pure intentions are of the utmost importance.

R. Yehuda Leib: "bring an offering...take MY offering"
There are 2 categories: AN offering and MY offering. One is generic and impersonal; the other is particular and personal. How we give affects what we give. We must notice the changes in ourselves as we enter a giving relationship with another—how distant and heartless or intimate and heart-ful we are at the moment of giving. (Torat Avot)

R. Meir of Apta: When you "take me" is when you open yourself to receiving Divine flow from the source, like a river flowing out of Eden; then G‑d says it is as good as if you offered an offering. More than the calf wants to suck, the cow wants to nurture. Just receiving what G‑d is offering creates a surge of Divine pleasure which is then available to all in the universe, if they would only take. (Peninei HaChasidut)

R. Mordechai Dov: "from every person whose heart prompts him to give."
When you eye your comrade critically, it is a failure to see your own flaw. G‑d is showing you this projection onto another because it is time for you to fix yourself. When you do this, you are bringing an offering to G‑d, the gift of your personal transformation. [Read it:] from each person that you have judged [his heart] and found [it] flawed. (Peninei HaChasidut)

Sod (esoteric, mystical meaning):

Zohar Teruma 134 Raya Mehemna:
It is a commandment to study Torah every day, for it is the secret of the supernal Faith with which to know the ways of G‑d. Everyone who is occupied with Torah merits in this world and merits in the World to Come, and is saved from all the evil accusers, because Torah is the secret of the Faith, and he who is occupied with it is occupied with the supernal Faith. G‑d causes His Divine Presence to dwell in him, so she would not turn away from him.

We should pursue one who knows a subject of Torah and learn from him that subject, to fulfill the secret of what is written: "Of every man whose heart prompts him to give you shall you take My offering." The Torah is the Tree of Life that gives life to everyone who becomes mighty in Torah, who becomes mighty in the Tree of Life, as it is written: "She is a Tree of Life to those who lay hold on her" (Proverbs 3:18).

We have established many supernal secrets concerning he who is occupied with Torah, in that he merits to be bound with the supernal Torah. He neither takes respite from it in this world, nor does he take respite in the World to Come, and his lips move gently in Torah even in the grave, as it is written: "Causing the sleepers' lips to murmur" (Song of Songs 7:11).

Greater is the one who is commanded, and then acts...

BeRahamim LeHayyim:
Motivation from the heart to do good is a beautiful thing. So much so that this Torah portion begins with the praise of "all whose heart prompts them to give a donation." Intuitively we applaud those who on their own voluntarily contribute or do a good deed.

But our Sages reveal a counter-intuitive notion: Greater is the one who is commanded, and then acts, than the one who does so on his or her own initiative. Wait one second here! Does that mean that if I ask my kid to do the dishes and he does them, that is better than if he voluntarily does them without me asking?

In Torah/mitzvot terms, frankly, YES! To cut to the chase, the reason is that when we do the mitzvot, we do G‑d's will, revealed through the 613 mitzvot which relate to the 248 organs and the 365 sinews of the body. By doing the mitzvot because they were commanded to us by G‑d — which we are now learning in full force in the second book of the Torah — we then act more G‑dly, truly in the image of the Creator who commanded their performance. "Treat His will as if it were your own will so that He should treat your will as if it were His will. Nullify your will before His will so that He should nullify the will of others before your will." (Pirkei Avot 2:3)

It is a beautiful thing to donate, even if it is to get one's name on a plaque. But even higher is to do so because the Commander has commanded it. Our Sages tell us that we should devote as much time and money to G‑d's commandments as we do to our own desires; in turn G‑d will help us beyond all expectations.

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