Rabbi Milevsky's Thought of the Week: Ki Sisa - 5776
In the last few Parshiot the construction of the Mishkan is described in detail. Commentators note that this structure built by the nation of Israel brought about an atonement for the sin of the golden calf.
When Moshe encounters 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 far more challenging.
Atonement was indeed achieved when the nation donated to the Mishkan with zeal. The givers were not coerced into giving but, rather, did it wholeheartedly. There was even a need to announce that enough was given, and that people should stop bringing donations.
Thus the eagerness of the Mishkan atoned for the sin of the enthusiasm of the golden calf.