Rabbi Milevsky's Thought of the Week: Vayakheil - 5774
The building of the Mishkan is described in detail in this week's Paresha. Commentators note that the structure built by the nation of Israel brought about atonement for the sin of the golden calf.
When Moshe encounter the nation worshiping the pagan image, the Torah notes that he saw "the calf and the dances.” What disturbed Moshe was not just the actual Avoda Zara, but also the enthusiasm shown by the worshipers. Mistakes perhaps can be fixed. However, when fervor is infused into a misdeed, the path to uproot the flaw is much longer.
Atonement was indeed achieved when the nation donated to the Mishkan with zeal. The givers were not coerced into giving but, rather, did it whole hardheartedly.
There was even a need to announce that enough was given, and that people should stop bringing donations.
Thus the enthusiasm of the Mishkan atoned for the sin of the enthusiasm of the golden calf.