Parashat Pekudei begins with an accounting of the precious metals that were donated to the Mishkan. In introducing this accounting, the Torah refers to the Mishkan as “Mishkan ha-eidut” – noting the Mishkan’s role as a “testament.” Rashi, citing the Midrash Tanchuma, explains that the presence of the Shekhina in the Mishkan testified to God’s having forgiven Benei Yisrael for the sin of the golden calf, and this is why the Mishkan is called “Mishkan ha-eidut.”
Rav Chaim Aryeh Leib Panster, in Sha’ar Bat Rabim, notes the significance of this quality of the Mishkan in the particular context of the accounting of the donated materials. One of the ways in which the Mishkan served to rectify the sin of the golden calf was through the donation of precious materials for the project. Benei Yisrael had given large amounts of gold for the calf, and they now corrected this mistake by donating large quantities of gold and other assets for the Mishkan. Significantly, in the context of the golden calf, the Torah does not give any details regarding the amount that was given. The implication, perhaps, is that the people gave recklessly and haphazardly. No accounting is given of the gold that was donated because no accounting was made by any of the people involved. The gold was donated without any thought or calculation, in a frenzied desire to create a graven image for worship. By contrast, the donations for the Mishkan had to be calculated, weighed and measured. Indeed, as we read in Parashat Vayakhel, when it became clear that too many materials were being donated, a call was issued ordering the people to stop donating. Whereas the donations for the golden calf were given mindlessly, the donations for the Mishkan were carefully calculated to ensure that the required materials were received.
To explain the significance of this distinction, Rav Panster draws an analogy to the difference between eating food for pleasure and taking medication. When we eat for enjoyment, we do not pay close attention to the quantities that we consume. When it comes to medication, however, or when we eat for health reasons, we carefully measure the quantities to ensure we consume the precise amount we need for our wellbeing. This, Rav Panster suggests, is the difference between the golden calf and the Mishkan noted by the Midrash. The golden calf was characterized by a mindless frenzy of activity, with the people freeing themselves of restraint and self-control. The Mishkan, by contrast, was characterized by discipline and obedience, carefully complying with God’s rules down to the last detail.
And thus the Mishkan is called “Mishkan ha-eidut” specifically here, as the Torah introduces its accounting of the materials donated for this project and how they were used. The very fact that such an accounting was made testifies to the fact that sin of the golden calf was corrected. The mindless, undisciplined worship of the calf was replaced with the careful, patient, calculated service of God in the Mishkan, which represents the patience and close attention to detail that is required in avodat Hashem generally. The “pekudei ha-Mishkan” is itself the antidote to the golden calf, modeling for us the need for discipline, precision and restraint in the service of the Almighty.