Parashat Teruma begins with God’s command to Benei Yisrael to donate materials towards the construction of the Mishkan. God said to Moshe, “Speak to the Israelites that they shall bring for Me a donation…” (25:2).
Ba’al Ha-turim cites the Midrash (Yalkut Shimoni 363) as interpreting the phrase “dabeir el Benei Yisrael” as indicating that the words of this command should be spoken in a manner of “piyus” – literally, “appeasement.” As this command, to donate precious materials for the construction of the Mishkan, required a considerable financial loss, the Midrash explains, God instructed Moshe to speak to the people in a soft, gentle, sensitive manner when commanding them to donate. Although the Mishkan brought honor to Benei Yisrael, and also provided them with a means of atonement, such that this undertaking was immensely beneficial for them, even so, the Midrash emphasizes, it was necessary for Moshe to speak to them in a manner of “piyus,” due to the significant financial sacrifice it entailed. The Midrash concludes that if “piyus” is necessary when soliciting money for an investment as valuable and rewarding as the Mishkan, then certainly the oppressors of the Jewish People, who forcibly seize the Jews’ property, will be harshly punished.
In presenting this explanation of the verse, the Midrash draws an association between the phrase “dabeir el Benei Yisrael” in this context and a verse from a famous prophecy in Sefer Yeshayahu (40:1) calling upon the nations to comfort Am Yisrael after the destruction of Jerusalem: “Daberu al leiv Yerushalayim” – “Speak to the heart of Jerusalem…” When God instructed Moshe, “Dabeir el Benei Yisrael” – to speak to Benei Yisrael about the need to donation materials, the Midrash teaches, He indicated that this must be done with delicately and with great sensitivity, as though comforting a nation after a devastating calamity.
The Midrash here urges us to exercise patience, sensitivity and understanding when trying to educate, in the effort to persuade those under our charge and influence to make the right decisions for themselves. Making sacrifices is very difficult and challenging, even for matters which are ultimately in the individual’s long-term best interest. And so when we seek to teach and implore children or students to make the sacrifices they need to make, we must do so in a manner of “piyus” – with great sensitivity, understanding that this is very difficult for them. Even when we ask for sacrifices for the purpose of the “Mishkan” – in the effort to train youngsters in Torah observance, we must be sensitive and attuned to the struggle involved, and approach this process with warmth and compassion, in order to ensure the greatest likelihood of success in motivating them to choose the proper course.