The Torah reading of Pekudei (Exodus 38:21–40:38) opens with an accounting of the various materials donated by the people of Israel for the making of the Mishkan, the portable sanctuary which “housed” the Divine Presence in the Israelite camp during their journeys through the desert.

These donations included: gold, for the Mishkan’s “vessels” (the menorah, ark, etc.) and the plating of its wall panels; silver, used for the “foundation sockets” into which the wall panels were inserted; copper, used in the making of the altar and the washbasin; wood, for the wall panels and posts; wool dyed in a variety of colors, and fine-spun linen, for the tapestries and the priestly garments; goat hair and animal skins, for the roof coverings; a variety of precious stones, for the ephod and choshen (the apron and breastplate worn by the high priest); oil, for the lighting of the menorah; and spices, for the making of the ketoret (“incense”)—fifteen materials in all.

With 14 of these 15 materials, each individual gave whatever he or she chose to give, and however much he or she chose to contribute. The type and amount given depended solely on the resources and the degree of generosity of the individual making the donation.

The single exception was the silver used to make the Mishkan’s foundation. Here, G‑d commanded that each should give exactly half a shekel of silver: “The rich shall not give more, and the poor shall not give less” (Exodus 30:15; from the section of Shekalim, a special supplementary reading added this week because of the upcoming month of Adar, when the half-shekel was traditionally contributed).

Every person is different: we differ in our intellect, character, talents and sensitivities. But we are all equal in the very basis of our bond with G‑d: our intrinsic commitment to Him. So, while we each contributed to the making of the various components of the Sanctuary in accordance with our individual capacities, we all gave equally of the silver of which its foundation was made. As regards the foundation of the relationship between us and G‑d, the rich person cannot give more, and the pauper cannot give less, since we all equally possess that intrinsic commitment.

Upon this foundation we each build our individualized edifice. Upon this foundation we each erect a home for G‑d made out of the unique talents, capacities and resources we are able to contribute. The foundation is the lowest, least noticeable part of the edifice; sometimes it is buried out of sight in the ground. But it is the silver foundation of absolute, immutable commitment that is the basis and support of it all.