35:22 …Everyone who is generous of heart brought on them a nose ring, a finger ring, and kumaz – all sorts of gold ornaments – every man who raised up an offering of gold unto Hashem.
The Chasam Sofer tells us that this verse is referring to two different approaches to giving charity: There are those who are very concerned and ask “Where is my money going? Is my money going to pay for the Aron Kodesh, the Bima, the coat room or the bathroom?”. Then, there are those who simply give their money and say “A shul needs many different items – use my money where you think it is necessary.”
Let’s take a step back and ponder: Which of these two people has given in a “loftier” fashion? The one who requests that his money go to a particular item in the synagogue, or the one who leaves it up to the Board of Trustees?
The halacha states (Orach Chayim 153:21) that something which was used for a mundane purpose (chol) may not be used for a holy purpose (kodesh). This would mean that all the ornaments mentioned in the verse which were worn and used by people would not be eligible to be used for the vessels of the Mishkan – they could only be used for secondary purposes. However, the gold bullion, which by definition were not yet used for anything in particular, could be used for the primary vessels in the Mishkan. What this means is that those who gave the various items of jewelry were not concerned where their items were going, therefore the Torah uses the term “nediv lev” – “generous of heart” – these people received satisfaction just by having the opportunity to be part of this monumental mitzvah of building the Mishkan. However, those who gave “tnufas zahav” (end of the verse above) – gold bullion or coins – could expect or possibly even demand that their donations be used for the vessels in the Mishkan—they would only have satisfaction if their donations were used for something of prominence in the Mishkan. The Ramban explains that the word “tnufa” means that these people lifted their gold bullion into the air, showing all what they were about to give. They then brought glory upon themselves but they were lacking in their generosity of the heart.
There is an expression in Yiddish about philanthropists: Those who have the money can legislate what should be done with it. But the Chasam Sofer is telling us that there is a higher level: Make the donation, and let the chips fall where they may.
Rav Chaim Veloziner taught that when Betzalel received donations for the mishkan, he could detect the level of the donor’s purity, and would then use the donation in the mishkan in a place that matched the level of kedusha of the donor. So while some donors might want to try to take a shortcut to have their donations used in prestigious places, this could only happen if they themselves were holy enough at the time of their donation.
There is no shortcut to holiness. The only way to achieve greatness is to be great.