Approach #1. Commandment and collection for Mishkan
took place before the Golden Calf.
Likewise, "All the gold that was applied for the work" (Shemot 38:24). What is the meaning of 'applied'? It means that here the Holy One, blessed be He saw Yisrael giving gold for the calf, and He applied the gold as a remedy beforehand, by putting the gold for the Tabernacle before the gold for the calf. For all the gold they had with them, and about them, they donated to the Tabernacle. FOR could you possibly imagine, that they had gold when they made the calf, and that they would take the gold off their ears, as it is written, "And all the people broke off the golden earrings which were in their ears" (Shemot 32:3)? He therefore took first the gold of the donation to expiate for the making OF THE CALF.
Approach #2 Commandment and collection for Mishkan
took place after Golden Calf
Bahya Ibn Paquda: The Torah whose ways are pleasant deliberately presented the making of the Tabernacle representing atonement, to the narration of the iniquity itself. For such is the way of the Holy One Blessed be He to have the antidote ready before the disease. Our Sages referred to this when they expounded: The Holy One Blessed be He first creates for Israel the antidote and only then delivers the blow as it is stated (Hosea 7, I): "When I have healing for Israel, then is the iniquity of Ephraim revealed".
Midrashim that speak of the Mishkan connected to
the theme of atonement for sin of the Golden Calf
"These are the accounts of the Mishkan, the Mishkan of Testimony." The Mishkan of Testimony is testimony for all who come into the world that the Holy One, blessed be He, has been reconciled with Israel.
A parable: To what is the matter comparable? To a king who took a wife and loved her excessively. He became angry with her and left her.
Her woman neighbors said to her: He will not return to you. After some days the king was reconciled to her and entered his palace with her, where he ate and drank. Now her neighbors would not believe that he had been reconciled to her; but when there was an aroma in the heavens over her, they immediately knew that the king had been reconciled to her.
Similarly, the Holy One, blessed be He, loved Israel, gave them the Torah, and called them a priestly kingdom and holy nation. At the end of forty days they made the calf and said: "This is your god, O Israel." In that hour the nations of the world said: The Holy one, blessed be He, will never again be reconciled to them.
When Moshe arose and prayed for them, the Holy One, blessed be He, said to him: "I have pardoned them as you asked" (Numbers 14:20). Moshe said: Who will inform the nations? He said to him: Let them make Me a sanctuary. When the nations of the world saw the incense rising from the Mishkan, they understood that the Holy One, blessed be He, had become reconciled with them.
It can be compared to a young man who came to a city and found the people thereof collecting money for charity, and when they asked him also to subscribe, he went on giving until they had to tell him that he had already given enough. Further on his travels, he lighted on a place where they were collecting for a theater, and when asked to contribute towards it, he was also so generous the he had to be told, "Enough."
Israel, likewise, contributed so much towards the golden calf that they had to be told "Enough," and they also contributed gold so generously towards the construction of the Mishkan that they again had to be told "Enough," as it is said: "For the stuff they had was sufficient for all the work to make it, and too much" (Shmemot 26:7).
The Holy one, blessed be He, thereupon said: "Let the gold of the Mishkan atone for the gold they brought towards the making of the golden calf." Further did God say to Israel: "When you made the calf, you provoked Me to anger by exclaiming: "This (eleh) is your god," but now that you have built the Mishkan with the word "eleh," I have become reconciled to you." Hence, "These (eleh) are the accounts of the Mishkan." God said unto Israel: "Just as in this world I have become reconciled unto you by means of the word "eleh," so in the World-to-Come," because it says: "Behold these (eleh) shall come from far; and, lo, these (eleh) from the north and from the west, and these (eleh) from the land of Sinim (Yeshaya 49:12); and also: "Who are these (eleh) that fly as a cloud, and as the doves to their cotes?" (ibid. 58:8).
Approach #3 Commandment of Mishkan before the Golden Calf,
collection after the Golden Calf.
Come and see what is written above: "of every man whose heart prompts him" (Shemot 25:2), which includes everyone, EVEN THE MIXED MULTITUDE. This is because the Holy One, blessed be He, wanted to build the tabernacle from all sides, the inner part and the shell. And since there were a mixed multitude among them, it was said, "of every man whose heart prompts him," in order to include them in Yisrael who are the inner part. Thus, everyone was commanded TO TAKE A PART IN THE TABERNACLE.
Afterwards, people came together according to their ilk, and the mixed multitude came and created the calf and those from among Yisrael were drawn towards them who eventually died. The mixed multitude brought upon Yisrael death and killings. The Holy One blessed be He, said: from now on the building of the tabernacle would be performed only on the part of Yisrael. At once, "Moses gathered all the Congregation of the children of Yisrael together..." (Shemot 35:1). Afterwards it is written: "Take from among you an offering to Hashem" (Ibid. 5). "From among you" surely, instead of as written before, "of every man whose heart prompts him" (Shemot 25:2). "And Moses gathered..." Where did he gather them from? Because the mixed multitude was among them, Moses had to gather and separate Yisrael from among them.
These and these (and these) are the words of the Living G-d
The Rebbe: Likutei Sichot, vol. 6, pp. 153-156.
They shall make Me a sanctuary: According to Rashi, God commanded the Jewish people to build the Tabernacle at the end of Moses' third stay on Mt. Sinai, i.e., on the 10thof Tishrei, Yom Kippur. Moses communicated this instruction to the people the day after he descended the mountain.
In fact, however, there are three opinions about when the instruction to build the Tabernacle was given and when it was actually built:
- According to one opinion in the Zohar, both the instruction and the construction took place immediately after the giving of the Torah, i.e., before the sin of the Golden Calf. (Hence, the Jews donated only their gold earrings for the Golden Calf, for that is all they had left after having given away the rest of their gold for the construction of the Tabernacle.)
- According to the Midrash—and this is the opinion Rashi adopts—the instruction was given after the sin of the Golden Calf, on Yom Kippur. By commanding the Jews to build Him a dwelling, God demonstrated that He had forgiven the sin of the Golden Calf.
- According to a second opinion in the Zohar, Moses heard God's instruction before the sin, but transmitted it to the Jewish people only after Yom Kippur.
On the physical plane, only one of these opinions can be correct.
But on a deeper level, these three opinions can coexist, addressing the three types of people God wants to build His Tabernacle—to make the world a Godly place—and who each imagine themselves to be exempt.
The holy mystic: According to the first opinion, God addresses Jews who are righteous and pure, having just experienced their rebirth at Sinai. Such a Jew may be unwilling to dirty his hands with gold and silver. He is addressed by the first opinion: "Despite your holiness, you are still human and physical. You are not exempt from fulfilling God's purpose in putting your soul into its body: to sanctify physicality and transform the physical world into God's dwelling place. Moreover, holy as you are, you still maintain at least a minimal relationship with physicality: you must eat, sleep, and so on. If you refuse to tangle with the world for the purpose of converting it to holiness, that minor but unrefined connection that you do have to the world will ultimately ensnare you."
The returnee: According to the second opinion, God addresses Jews who have sinned and repented, who have worshipped the Calf and have now returned. Such a Jew agrees that a holy person needs to engage in sanctifying his physical involvement in the world, lest it ensnare him in its material orientation. He, the penitent, however, is immune to this danger. He has "been there, done that," and knows better; he is untouchable. The second opinion is addressed to him: "The instruction to build the Tabernacle was given on Yom Kippur, the day of Atonement, after the Jews had returned to the right path and been forgiven. Know that your return is not complete until you have built Me a Tabernacle. It is not enough to renounce the enticements of materialism; you, especially, must transform the material world into God's dwelling place."
The sinner: According to the third opinion, God's command applies even to sinners, to worshippers of a graven image. There is no mention of God rescinding the commandment to build the Tabernacle after the Jews had sinned, nor of re-instructing them to build it after they had been forgiven. Such a Jew, feeling tainted by his misdeeds, is convinced that the commandment to build the Tabernacle does not apply to him. He is addressed by the third opinion: although the instruction was given before the sin, it was not voided by it. God's Tabernacle is to be built by every Jew, even those that are idol-worshippers.