The passuk states ויקחו לי תרומה. Rashi explains “they shall separate for My sake.” Onkelos translates differently, “and they shall separate before Me a separation.” Further on in the parsha it states ועשו לי מקדש. Rashi explains “and they shall make a holy place for My Name.” Onkeloes here as well translates differently, “and they shall make before Me a Mikdash.” Why does Onkelos translates the word לי as “before Me”?
The Nefesh HaGer answers that Hashem has no physicality whatsoever, therefore it is improper to say, “take for Me” or “build for Me,” rather it means “before Me.” Also Chazal say about the mitzvah of lighting the menorah, “Does Hashem need its light?” For forty years in the desert we traveled with the pillar of fire and the clouds of glory which lit up for us and led the way. Rather the neir ma’aravi is testimony that the Shechina rests amongst Yisrael, as it had the same amount of oil as the others, and yet it lasted until the next evening. So too is with the money of the terumah, Hashem doesn’t need our money, rather we need to contribute for our sake, in order to elevate ourselves.
During aseres yimai teshuva we say אבינו מלכנו חטאנו לפניך, our Father our King, we sinned before You, and similarly on Yom Kippur by the al chaits we say שחטאנו לפניך we sinned before You. Why do we say חטאנו לפניך we sinned before You and not חטאנו לך we sinned to You? HaRav Chaim Kaniyevsky shlita answered that lashon לך, to You, reflects that we sinned to Hashem and we affected Him. This however is not true, we chas v’shalom do make any defect in Hashem in any way at all, rather our sins affect ourselves. Therefore we confess with the lashon לפניך before You, by expressing that we have performed improperly before You, and we want to fix ourselves to return to Hashem who is pure and untainted.
The Rambam brings that a person who sinned to Hashem confesses his aveiros by sayingחטאתי עויתי פשעתי לפניך. If a person sinned to his friend, he needs to ask forgiveness of that person. If the person died before asking forgiveness one is obligated to go to his grave and ask forgiveness there and he says חטאתי לה’ אלקי ישראל ולפלוני זה I sinned to Hashem, G-d of Yisrael and to this person. Why when a person confesses to Hashem does he say לפניך, before You, whereas when he confesses to a person he says לה’ אלקי ישראל to Hashem, G-d of Ysrael?
HaRav Soloveitchik (in the sefer הררי קדם) answers that when one sins to Hashem he says לפניך because one’s sins cannot effect Hashem to hurt or disturb in any way, rather one sinned before Hashem. Also wherever a person performed the sin it is in front of Hashem, who fills the entire world and sees everything. However when a person sins to his friend he says לה’ אלקי ישראל because we are בנים לה’, and Hashem is our father. When someone hurts a child, it hurts the father as well. Therefore one needs to confess that he sinned to the person’s father, Hashem.
May we remember that our avodah is before Hashem and He loves us as a father loves his children.