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Parshat Terumah

December 1, 2016

Our parashah opens with the message Hakadosh Baruch Hu wants Moshe Rabbeinu to relay to Bnei Yisrael (25:2): “Daber el Bnei Yisrael, veyikchu Li terumah” – tell them to separate from their money to give a gift for the Mishkan. The terminology Hakadosh Baruch Hu uses in his message is “daber.” Chazal teach that the word daber here refers to appeasement; that this message must be conveyed softly, with encouraging and persuasive words. Why did Hakadosh Baruch Hu want Moshe to give over this message particularly in this way? Because, often, people’s natural tendency is not to give, and therefore when it comes to giving they need to be encouraged and persuaded to do so. But even so, the question still remains: the minimal terumah referred to here is only the three silver half-shekels (see Rashi). We should also keep in mind that Chazal teach us that each family left Mitzrayim with 90 donkeys laden with gold, silver and precious jewels (besides the booty they acquired by the Yam Suf). So why would Hakadosh Baruch Hu have to tell Moshe to speak to the Bnei Yisrael in an encouraging and heartening way so that they should agree to give? Moreover, Chazal explain that the terminology of veyikchu Li – take for Me, as opposed to veyitein Li – give to Me, connotes that Hakaodsh Baruch Hu was stressing that even their very giving is in essence taking. Hakadosh Baruch Hu doesn’t need our money, as the passuk states, ki Li hakesef. The reason Hakadosh Baruch Hu wants us to give is for our sake, to bestow us with unlimited berachah, as the passuk says, veharikosi lachem berachah ad bli dai. We are the ones who gain by giving tzedakah, as Chazal phrase it, aser beshvil shetis’asher – so that we will be blessed with wealth. So since giving to Hakadosh Baruch Hu is receiving in return, and we are the ones who are gaining, the question becomes even stronger: why did Hakadosh Baruch Hu instruct Moshe Rabbeinu to relay the message of giving to the Mishkan in such a way? The answer is that from here we see that this is indeed the reality! Even for such small amounts, many people may have a very difficult time parting with what they consider is “their” money for other purposes – especially when it comes to giving tzedakah. Chazal relate how two of the great tana’im were once collecting money for hachnasat kallah, and approached the home of a wealthy person who used to always give them very generously. When they were by the door they heard the owner telling his servant to go to the marketplace and be sure to buy the cheapest produce – leftovers from the previous day. When they heard this, they understood that he must be going through difficult times, so they continued on without even knocking on his door. As they were leaving the city this man noticed them and immediately asked why they hadn’t come to collect from him? When they explained themselves, he told them that for worldly matters for himself he skimps, but for mitzvos and tzedakah, he gives very generously as much as he can. And he indeed gave them a very generous amount… We should internalize the approach of this very special Jew, who understood what takes precedence, and what is truly important in this world. Unfortunately we see how so many people may act in the exact opposite way: they may spend lavishly for themselves, trading in their car, taking family trips, buying new wardrobes and the like, but when it comes to mitzvos, and to giving to people or organizations in need, they claim that they don’t have enough! This is notwithstanding that every penny a person gives to tzedakah, or for any mitzvah for that matter, he will get back! When Chazal (Beitzah 16b) teach that a person’s specific livelihood for the year that is written and sealed on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, does not include money spent for Shabbos, Yom Tov and Torah education, the Ritva explains that the same is true with the money spent for any mitzvah – it is not part of the budgeted money allotted to the person. Whatever you spend, you get back! (cited in the Shita Mekubetzes ad loc., where he explains that Chazal only cited the most common applications.) We must be cognizant of our natural tendencies and cravings for materialism, so that we will be able to combat it; and we should also keep in mind that giving is getting – veyikchu Li! Shabbat shalom um’vorach


Courtesy of HaRav Shlomo Bussu, shlita; the Grandson of the Baba Sale

Shabbat Shalom!

 

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