We have a general rule that
טומאה הותרה בציבור
This means that if the cohanim or the tzibbur are tomeh tumas mes then the cohanim can still bring korbanos tzibbur. For example, the mishna says in Pesachim (77b):
חמשה דברים באין בטומאה ואינן נאכלין בטומאה העומר ושתי הלחם ולחם הפנים וזבחי שלמי צבור ושעירי ראשי חדשים
“Five korbanos are brought if the kohanim are tomeh but are not eaten be’tumah (because they do not need to be eaten for klal yisroel to have a kaporoh) – the korban omer, the shtei halechem on shavuos, the lechem haponim, shlomim brought by the tzibbur and the korban chatos for rosh chodesh.”
The beis halevi asks as follows:
The gemara says that “yisroel sheomdu al sinai poskoh zuhamoson” – when klal yisroel came to har Sinay they reached a madrega of Adam harishon before the chet of the etz hadaas, and would have lived forever had they not done the chet haegel. This is what the possuk means in tehillim – ‘ani amarti elokim atem uvenei elyon kulchem achen keadam tamusu’ – ‘I said that you are like malachim, however you will die like Adam.’
The beis halevi asks that Moshe held the tzibbur responsible for the chet haegel – if so, why do we say that tumas mes only returned to affect the yochid and not the tzibbur? The tzibbur did the aveira that brought misah?
The beis halevi explains as follows:
Two types of gathering
There are two sorts of gathering. There is a gathering where everyone in the gathering wants to contribute something to the klal – this is a genuine tzibbur. On the other hand there is a gathering where a group of people act together only because each one of has a personal goal in mind that can only be accomplished together with the other people from the group. This is not a real tzibbur – it is merely a collection of individuals who have grouped together for convenience’s sake.
At the time of the chet haegel – although it was performed by the tzibur, nevertheless each person had their own motives in mind – they approached Aharon together in order to have the egel made because by themselves they could not have accomplished this. Therefore this is not categorised as the action of a tzibbur.
Subsequently tumah hutrah betzibbur – the tzibbur itself never did the chet haegel and does not have the halachos of tumas mes.
The possuk says in shir hashirim (1:15):
הִנְּךָ יָפֶה דוֹדִי אַף נָעִים אַף עַרְשֵׂנוּ רַעֲנָנָה
“Behold you are beautifull my beloved, also pleasant. Our couch is refreshing.”
The Vilna Gaon explains:
..ואף ערשנו רעננה עוד זאת שהוספת לנו עשית המשכון ושכינת עוזך כמ"ש ועשו לי מקדש ושכנתי בתוכם פירוש בתוך ישראל כמו שכתוב תל תלפיות וכו' כי שריית השכינה היתה בתוך לב ישראל רק שהם צריכין מקום מיוחד להתכנס יחד ולכן בחר מקום מובחר ארץ ישראל ששם הוא מוכן להשראת שכינה. ואיך יתייחדו כל הלבבות של כל ישראל ביחד לכן צוה הקב"ה ויקחו לי תרומה וכו' אשר ידבנו לבו וכו' וכל אחד התנדב כפי נדבת לבו על המשכון ונתחברו שם הלבבות.
“Our couch is pleasant – you added this to us that you made a mishkan for us that contained the shechina as the possuk says ‘they shall make for me a mikdash and I will dwell amongst them’ – this means – among the benei yisroel – because the shechinah rested among the hearts of klal yisroel just that they needed a specific place to gather together …and how will all the hearts of klal yisroel join together? Therefore Hashem commanded ‘veyikchu li terumah’ – each one donated according to the generosity of his heart to the mishkan and therefore their hearts were joined there.”
The mishkan was the opposite of the maaseh ha’egel. In the maaseh ha’egel each one donated gold to make the egel, however each one had their own motives in mind and donated together only in order so that their own personal goal could be accomplished. Therefore although the egel appeared to be something that klal yisroel performed together, it actually split them into individuals and brought misah back to the yachid through their being split off from the klal.
The mishkan was the opposite, here each one donated together in order that through the unified accomplishment of making the mishkan they would be rejoined. The mishkan served to rejoin klal yisroel and therefore revealed the shechinah that was present in all their hearts. Therefore through the building of the mishkan klal yisroel achieved a kaproh for the chet haegel.