Valuation of Donations
You know the Gemara relates that the rich people offered their bikkurim in elaborate baskets woven from precious metals. These were returned to them. But the poor people’s baskets woven of reeds and such were kept by the kohanim. On the cynical side, we can say the poor grow poorer, as even their homemade containers are not returned. But the real lesson here is that their contribution was so valued that even the containers earned a place of honor. In contrast, the wealthy gave the bikkurim with little self-sacrifice and much self-importance. Such containers are not worthy of a holy place.
In this week’s parsha, we see that the maros hatzovos earned a place of honor in the mishkan. They were not very precious in and of themselves, for the metal was not silver. But they were precious because of what they represented and the women’s personal exertion that cannot be assessed in monetary terms. A further point: Rashi cites that Moshe did not want to accept the mirrors at first because he though the associations could be viewed at less than positive. But Hashem assured him that this offer was most precious. It seems clear that while Moshe may have thought of objections, he did not voice them to the donors, conveying the insult implicit in such a thought.
But today, the values are all skewed. An offer of a piece of base metal would be flung back in the donor’s face. The person in charge would say, “You dare to make such a lowly offering? Look at the precious stones I gave. I show true love for the Temple by bestowing great donation, while you give what is hardly worth the petty cash box. You have the audacity to consider the Torah learning you (or your husband) do and teach your children to be of real value? That doesn’t buy anything!” And people would back this on the grounds that it takes money to keep the place going. They may even pay lip service to the fact that Torah is valued. But the macher still takes pride of place.