Upon leaving Mitzrayim, the Jewish people became wealthy. First, they asked for the valuables of the Egyptians (who, as we know, were happy to give them away as long as the Bnei Yisroel would leave and the plagues would end), and afterwards the wealth of the Egyptians who were drowned at the sea was gathered. The result: “there wasn’t a single member of Yisroel that didn’t have with him 90 Libyan donkeys laden with the silver and gold of Mitzrayim”.1
When we arrive to our parsha, the contributions to the building of the Mishkan, we find that the Torah tells us that Yisroel gave “gold, silver, and copper”. The question the Rebbe asks is: why begin with gold? More copper and silver were given, so why not go in order of quantity of donations? If in order of rarity, then precious stones should come first, but in fact they follow after the precious metals. Why start with gold, then proceed to lesser materials — silver and copper — and then list materials that are even more rare (which not every member of Bnei Yisroel possessed).
The Rebbe proceeds to answer that gold, silver and copper appear first because everyone had these materials to contribute and gold, being the most precious of these, appears first. More than that, we find a lesson that every Jew possesses the “gold-standard” of serving Hashem. A Jew is supposed to serve Hashem for His own sake (lishma), not for personal benefit. Nonetheless, our sages say that even if one is not holding on the level of lishma he should at least serve Hashem lo lishma (“not for His own sake” — for reward, or to avoid punishment) because this will lead him to eventually reach the level of lishma.
…the Rambam explains “therefore when one is teaching children and women and those lacking spiritual refinement (כלל עמי הארץ) one teaches them to serve out of fear, etc., until their knowledge will increase and they will become wiser…until they will grasp [the proper way] and [begin to] serve Hashem from love.” The reason is that from within “lo lishma“, meaning what is inside the (service of Hashem in a way of) “lo lishma” is “lishma“.
The level of serving Hashem “lishma“, the level of gold, is really found by every Jew. Some of us have it revealed, while in others it is still concealed. But every Jew is “wealthy in his essence”, meaning it is inherently his, not received from another source2. Furthermore, one’s material wealth comes from the spiritual wealth a Jew inherently possesses. Why is this so? Because “even on the lowest levels, in the world that in its external aspect appears as a concealment on G-dliness, he is connected to the Holy One, blessed be He.” This inherent connection is what makes every Jew rich, both spiritually and materially. The implications for us are that:
Every single member of Yisroel needs to be in a state of wealth, both spiritually and materially — wealth in the simple sense! More than that: not only that he needs this — but every single member of Yisroel has wealth in actuality. Even if it is not found in a revealed state in physicality–this is not because it doesn’t exist, G-d forbid, but rather because the Jew needs to reveal it through his own effort… It is certain that the Holy One, blessed be He, blesses every single member of Yisroel with wealth of gold materially and spiritually…
From this we immediately see an instruction–that a Jew needs to make an effort to be wealthy in actuality in all of his matters, beginning with spiritual wealth, “there is no rich person except in knowledge”, to be wealthy in Torah and Mitzvos, until even material wealth, so that he can fulfill Torah and Mitzvos with peace of mind and comfortably, and so that he can give abundant tzedaka and fulfill Mitzvos in the most preferred manner (b’hiddur), to take advantage of this wealth in order to make his private home a dwelling place and mikdash for Hashem.
Since every Jew is in essence spiritually wealthy, and since material wealth derives from spiritual wealth, then if he will reveal his spiritual wealth through Torah and Mitzvos, it will follow that he will become materially wealthy as well!3
1) Bechoros 5b.
2) See Kuntres Yud-Alef Nissan 5751, Tefilla L’Moshe, ois 3.
3) See Likutei Sichos volume I, p. 289: “The miraculous event [performed by Rashbi] of ‘valley, valley, fill with golden dinars’ is that it occurred for Rashbi’s students who were still on a level of golus. The proof–they were troubled by material matters (a colleague who went abroad and returned wealthy). Whereas in the future it will be completely irrelevant to be troubled by such things, as the Rambam states that the longing of the sages for the days of Moshiach is not because of material abundance, since at that time they will be satisfied with a little.”