The Torah reading of Vayakhel begins with Moshe relating G‑d’s command that the Jews donate for the construction of the Mishkan. Moshe states it thus:1 “Take from among yourselves an offering to G‑d; whoever’s heart moves him shall bring the G‑dly offering.”

The commentators2 point to an apparent inconsistency in this verse: “Take from…” seems to imply that the offering was to be taken by force if necessary, while “whoever’s heart moves him shall bring ” indicates that it is to be given freely.

The commentators answer3 that the verse refers to two categories of gifts. The beginning alludes to the half-shekel offering that was to be taken from each Jew, while the latter part speaks of the voluntary gifts brought for the construction of the Mishkan.

We must, however, understand why the command as Moshe heard it speaks of “taking” — “They shall take unto Me terumah ”; “you shall take My Terumah ”; “This is the terumah that you shall take”4 — and makes no mention of “bringing,” as Moshe did when he related the command to the Jewish people.

The Mishkan served as an atonement for the sin of the Golden Calf, for which reason it was known as the “Mishkan of Testimony,” for the Divine Presence that was revealed there served as testimony to the Jewish people that G‑d had yielded to Moshe regarding their sin with the Golden Calf.5

The Jews emphasized their absolute contrition for the sin by giving their gold unstintingly for the construction of the Mishkan , to make up for their having given it for the construction of the Golden Calf. Their generosity thus reflected their great desire to have the Divine Presence reside in their midst — the very antithesis of the sin of the Golden Calf.

This is why the command regarding the gifts for the Mishkan, as given by G‑d to Moshe, stresses only the aspect of “taking,” while the verse in our Torah portion highlights the aspect of “giving” and “bringing.”

G‑d’s command to Moshe related to that which should be taken in by the Mishkan ’s treasurers, while the selfsame command, as related by Moshe, stressed the “giving” and “bringing” which underscored the Jewish people’s heartfelt joy in making these contributions — a feeling engendered by G‑d’s having forgiven them wholeheartedly and gladly6 for the sin of the Golden Calf.

The nation’s generosity was thus not the result of any command from above, and was of major significance not only with regard to being forgiven the sin of the Golden Calf, but even more importantly, for its contribution to the goal of having G‑d reside within the Jewish people through His presence in the Mishkan :

Although7 the Jews witnessed G‑d in all His glory at Sinai, they nevertheless succumbed soon afterwards to the sin of the Golden Calf. How could this have happened?

It was possible because the revelation at Sinai sprang strictly from above,8 i.e., the spiritual elevation brought about within the Jewish people did not result from their own service, but from G‑d’s self-revelation. It was thus possible that they would subsequently regress.

That the Jews became fitting permanent vessels for G‑dliness was a result of their wholehearted and joyous giving for the construction of the Mishkan. This resulted in a degree of permanent spiritual elevation, and brought about an eternal infusion of holiness into the physical materials with which the Mishkan was built.9

Based on Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XXVI, pp. 262-266