Generating giving

There is much more to giving than meets the eye. After all, the ability we have to do chesed, to be the giver, is also in Hashem’s hands.

Rabbanit Shira Smiles ,


Adapted by Channie Koplowitz Stein

Just as Hashem had commanded Moshe with an unusual verb in a previous parshah, “Come before Pharaoh…,” instead of “Go…,”so too does Hashem here instruct Moshe with an unusual verb for the context. Hashem tells Moshe to speak to Bnei Yisroel and “let them take for Me My portion, from every man whose heart motivates him you shall take My portion” to donate toward the construction of the Mishkan/Sanctuary. The obvious question all the commentators ask is that if this portion is for Me, Hashem, wouldn’t the appropriate verb be, “Give to Me?” How can we explain the logic the Torah is trying to teach us?

The simplest explanation perhaps is the one offered by Rabbi Dunner in Mikdash Halevei. Since everything actually belongs to Hashem, we are just taking it to return to Him. This explanation is easily supported by the text itself which states, “Take… My portion.” However, even within this simple reading lie layers of deep significance.

Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l offers us our first insight. He writes that Hashem wanted donations only from those who understood this truth, that what they were donating actually belongs to Hashem and they were merely giving it back to Him. Hashem wants us to understand that we are merely caretakers of this wealth. Even today, when there is no Mishkan or Beit Hamikdosh, there are still worthy organizations and people who ask for our donations. If we realize that we are merely administering Hashem’s funds in our care, we know that Hashem has entrusted these funds to us for this purpose, and we give willingly. While today, all donations are accepted, donations for the Mishkan required this awareness and fullness of heart.

Since everything belongs to Hashem, writes the Tosher Rebbe, Hashem has granted us the privilege of giving it back to Him. But we should be aware that Hashem has gifted us not only with money, but with all our talents and skills, with our entire being. It can all be elevated to Hashem’s service. Understanding this truth prevents us from developing a sense of arrogance for our contributions or jealousy of others. Instead, we are filled with gratitude for the privilege Hashem has granted us.

This understanding, continues the Tosher Rebbe, is our opposition to the character of Amalek whose numerical value is ram/haughty, 240.Those with the character of arrogance take personal credit for everything, attributing nothing to God. When we believe that everything belongs to Hashem. We are validating the unity of Hashem, that nothing exist outside Him. Therefore we can understand the deeper meaning in the declaration of Haman the Amalekite. Haman accuses Bnei Yisroel of being a nation mifuzor umiforad/dispersed and disunited, Haman is declaring that Bnei Yisroel have lost sight of the unity of Hakodosh Boruch Hu and have thus separated from their Source.

This idea, that all things exist only within Hashem, teaches us that when we pray we are ceding control to Hashem, asking Him to send us the appropriate doctor, lawyer, teacher, or mentor to help us, for it is all in Him. Whether you are the “giver” or the “taker,” this is the mindset that will help you succeed. As Rav Shach adds, The ability to do chesed, to be the giver, is also in Hashem’s hands, and we pray that Hashem will give us of His resources to be givers back to Him and to His purposes.

If all our resources come from Hashem, how can Ben Azai urge us to run to do a light, easy mitzvah with the same alacrity as we would run to do a heavy, “important” mitzvah? Rabbi Bick in Chayei Moshe explains that that is the point. While we are not in control of our material resources, we are in control of our passion and desire. Ben Azai is urging us to have that same ratzon/desire to ratz/run to perform every mitzvah, no matter how easy or difficult, how inconsequential or meaningful we may think it to be. So, continues the Chayei Moshe, give these gifts to the Mishkan enthusiastically, with the joy of someone taking things for himself. And when you give to another, run, give before being asked.

We are not in control of what we can do or give. Therefore, what is required of us, writes the Sfas Emes is that we desire to give. It is the desire that is the fuel to bring the mitzvah to Hashem’s throne. Take that desire and passion within you and direct it to Hakodosh Boruch Hu. The same mitzvah done by two different individuals can have completely different impact and power based on the passion and joy with which each person performed it.

Rabbi Druck brings a completely different perspective to our terminology. Observing that Hashem indeed has everything and needs nothing, we are not giving anything to Hashem. We are in fact benefiting by this “giving,” for Hashem is then showering us with brachot. Our Sages say that the verse commanding us to tithe our earning, “Aser t’aser/tithe you shall surely tithe,” should actually be read, “Aser [lema’an she]tiasher/tithe so you will become rich.”

In an interesting observation. Rabbi Cohen notes that we tend to question every solicitation. We ask if it is legitimate, if we can afford it, among other questions. Yet, when it comes to other general outlays, we consider them necessary expenses and rarely question the need. In Torah thought, continues the Otzrot Hatorah, general expenditures are actually called hotzaot/outlays, while funds spent on mitzvoth are called hachnasot/acquisitions/assets. [Think hachnosat kallah funds. CKS] When we spend money for mitzvah observance, Hashem reimburses us beyond our expenditures. That’s one reason Parshat Shekalim is always paired with Parshat Mishpatim, both read before Purim. A greater expenditure should be for the mitzvah of matanot la’evyonim/gifts to the poor than for mishloach manot. We should take from that which Hashem has blessed us with and give to the poor, without expecting anything in return while mishloach manot is most often an exchange.

As we know, tzedakah is one of the three most powerful tools we have to annul an evil decree, whether personal or national, writes Marvidei Chen. In this context, certainly anything one gives, he certainly “takes.” In the final analysis, the only money we can take with us is the money we have spent on tzedakah and mitzvoth. Their merit stays with us forever.

The story is told of Binyamin Hatzadik who, when the tzedakah funds ran out, took his own money and supported a widow and her seven children during a famine. Some time later, Binyamin was sick and on his deathbed. The angels approached Hakodosh Boruch Hu and argued that if giving tzedakah has the potential to save someone from a death decree, surely Binyamin, who saved eight souls from starvation should live. The decree was rescinded and Binyamin Hatzadik lived another twenty two years. When Binyamin gave the widow from his personal funds, who was “taking” more from those donations, the widow or Binyamin?

In the donations to the Mishkan, how pure was the motivation of each of the donors? This was the special gift of Bezalel, the Mishkan’s main architect. Those donations given with the fullest heart, totally for the sake of Heaven, were used for the holier vessels, while those given either somewhat grudgingly or with hopes of some return on investment were used in less sacred areas.

When you donate, you will get Divine goodness from above. But even before the donation, writes Emek Haparshah, the moment you decide you want to donate, Hashem will grant you the ability to succeed, whether with money or with skills and talents. When you are giving, you are getting more.

The Chofetz Chaim presents an interesting parable. When a farmer was selling his wheat, he agreed with the buyer that they would keep track of how much was sold by putting a copper coin in a dish. They would then count the coins, and the farmer would be paid accordingly. The foolish farmer, thinking he could make a “quick buck,” took some of the coins and pocketed them. How foolish was he, when he would have received so much more for each bale of wheat than the one coin represented? Similarly, our money is worth so much more than its stated value when we use it for sacred purposes and tzedakah. We get so much more in return.

On yet another note, Rav Schlesinger cites Rav Eliyahu Dessler in explaining that we generate love for another not by what we get from them but by what we give, and by how much time and effort we invest. By giving these donations, we are generating love for Hakodosh Boruch Hu and will generate greater dividends in return. When Hashem asked us to put blood on the doorposts of our homes to merit redemption from Egypt, it was not Hashem Who needed this sign, but Bnei Yisroel who needed to do something themselves, to invest in their love and faith in the Redeemer. Hashem gave us Torah and mitzvoth, so many, so that by continually “giving” to Hashem, our love for Him would increase. We are not doing Hashem any favors when we perform His mitzvoth, for He has no need of them. Rather, writes Rabbi Wolbe, Hashem has given us permission to “enter His chamber” and connect with Him with our loving gestures.

In a fascinatingly different interpretation, Rabbi Druck in Aish Tomid, opines that the Torah is not talking here about those donating to the Mishkan, but about the gabbaim, the collectors who will go among the people and take their donations. There is sometimes no shortage of people who want to give; there is often a shortage of people willing to donate their time to collect, adds the Menachem Zion.

Developing this idea more deeply, Rabbi Belsky in Einei Yisroel describes two levels of giving. Bnei Yisroel needed no prodding to give of their gold, silver, copper and other materials for the construction of the Mishkan. They gave it willingly and proudly. But there were those whose hearts moved them to donate themselves. They wanted to do the actual work on the Mishkan. Initially, they had no skills, but, because of their great desire, Hashem imbued them with the necessary skills to build and weave, to be silversmiths and carpenters, and they became chachmei lev/wise of heart. Certainly, all the materials that were dedicated for the Mishkan became elevated. These people themselves became elevated. They became the actual donation. [Today those people who dedicate their lives to holy pursuits, from Rabbis to Torah teachers, etc. Are themselves called Klei Kodesh/Holy Vessels. CKS] They have certainly given bechol me’odecha/with all your abundance. They would be human representatives of the Mishkan and they would inspire others with their passion.

In a final point, Rav Moshe explains that Hashem is actually telling us to take our yetzer tov/good inclination and mobilize it to give us the passion to do those mitzvoth with love that we may do simply because we are so commanded, to force the yetzer horo/evil inclination to agree to let us perform these mitzvoth as well with love and passion.

Hashem has given each of us so much. Let us each take inventory, and give of everything that He has given us, and proudly, gratefully and passionately, dedicate it to His service.