Questions and Suggested Answers
Based on the writings of Nehama Leibowitz
1. And they came, every person whose heart stirred him up, and every one whom his spirit made willing they brought the Lord's offering. (35, 21)
On the first sentence beginning "And they came every person" Ramban comments:
Referring to the skilled craftsmen who executed the work. The text relates this description ("whose heart stirred him up") specifically to them since we do not find the stirring up of the heart credited to those who contributed the offerings. They are always described as being moved by a spirit of generosity or willingness.
The "stirring up of the heart" implies the arousing of their capacity to undertake the work. For none had ever learnt these skills before from any teacher nor had ever practiced them before. But each one discovered his natural talent or aptitude for the task, his heart rising as it were to the Diving challenge enabling him to come into Moses' presence and say: "I can do it". I have already referred to this elsewhere(331,2 s.v. re'eh kra'ti be-shem..." see I have called by name"). The text thus observes that all those whose hearts gave them that uplift- confidence in their own power to undertake the work came along to offer their services whilst all whom the spirit made willing brought the offerings. (Ramban)
One person gives with his soul only - he has managed to get the better of his heart which tells him to be careful with his money. The other gives freely with both heart and soul. His nature does not resist such giving. The latter is described by the term "his heart stirred him up" i.e. his heart too followed the prompting of his soul. The former comes under category of the spirit moved him" - only his spirit made him generous. Ha-Ketav Veha-kabbalah
(a) Outline the textual difficulty the above commentators are attempting to resolve.
The verse contains two subjects: 1. "...every person whose heart stirred him up" 2. "...every one whom his spirit made willing..." We are obviously dealing with two separate types of contributors.
(b) What is the difference between the two explanations?
Both explanations accept the fact that the text refers to two different kinds of contributors. Ramban's explanation of those whose "heart stirred" them refers to a determined preordained creative gift that only a select few possess. According to the explanation of Ha'Ketav Veha-kabbalah one can choose and be in either category because it's really a matter of attitude rather than an innate skill. When contemplating the decision to contribute, one can be following the promptings of the soul but when the contribution is finally made, one can do so because of the stirring of the heart and vice versa. It's a matter of personal psychology.
(c) In what way does Ramban base himself more exactly on the structure of the verse?
Given the fact that the verbs in the verse relating to contributors are in the plural form and each verb has its own subject, it is therefore more apparent that we are speaking of two distinct groups of people rather than two characteristics within an individual.
Prepared by: Rabbi Mordechai Spiegelman veteran yeshiva educator (USA) now residing in Jerusalem