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Parshas Ki Sissa
"The Rich Shall Not Give More"
The rich shall not give more, and the poor shall not give less than half a shekel… (Shemos 30:15)
There is a famous pshat on this possuk: the rich should not donate to a cause to such an extent that there is no room left for others to participate. In addition, the poor should not give less claiming that he doesn't have; let the rich take care of it. A mitzvah should be divided equally among everyone. This way everyone is involved and not just a few individuals. Everyone should donate what he can for a mitzvah.
If, chas vechalila, the rich man grabs the whole mitzvah for himself, leaving no room for someone else to participate, then Heaven will rip the mitvah away from him, as we see from the following story of Rav Yonason Eybeschutz, zt"l.
When Rav Yonason married, his father-in-law, a well-known philanthropist, gave him a dowry of 3000 ducats (gold coins) in order that he continue his studies undisturbed. Thus Rav Yonason together with his chavrusa sat devoted to Torah day and night in purity and holiness.
However, as is well known, when holiness proliferates, the forces of tumah are in torment, and immediately come to wage war against the kedusha. And so it happened. Rav Yonason's purity and holiness spread affecting all around him. So, the forces of tumah decided to build a church right next door to Rav Yonason's Beis Midrash.
This decision understandably infuriated the students of the Beis Midrash. Seeing Rav Yonason's aggravation, his chavrusa just couldn't hold himself back. He became consumed in zealotry and decided to get up and do something about it! In the middle of the night, under the cover of darkness, he climbed up to the roof of the church and ripped out the giant cross that had been placed there.
However, the goyim were well aware that sooner or later the Jews would get angry and someone would get up and do something. Therefore they hid lookouts on the roof of the church. When Rav Yonason's chavrusa went up to the roof and broke the cross, he mysteriously disappeared.
Understandably the entire Jewish community started hunting, but no trace was to be found. There was no clue to where he had disappeared.
Thus the search continued, until one day the church guard came to one of the members of the Jewish city council and told him what had happened, how they had caught this Jew as he went onto the roof to break the cross. He related that he had already been tried by the church tribunal and had been sentenced to be burned at the stake.
The guard added that he was being kept in a secret place in the church and that he knew where he was. Therefore he made the following proposal. He agreed to help him escape for the paltry sum of 3000 ducats, not one penny less!
When the town council heard the outrageous sum they were taken aback, but they agreed they had to do everything possible to rescue a Jew from the goyim. Especially being that it involved a talmid chochom who had been sentenced to be burned at the stake. The town council immediately went around gathering donations to free him.
When word reached Rav Yonason he became very worried that the church would move his chavrusa or even execute him before the city collected such a large amount of money. Therefore he went home and took the entire dowry his father-in-law had given him, exactly 3000 ducats, and went straight to the guard and handed him the money. The guard kept his word and whisked his chavrusa out of the church to safety.
All this had taken place with the greatest secrecy; no one had any inkling what had happened. The city council continued to collect donations. When they came to Rav Yonason to give him the money they had managed to collect thus far, he told them that it wasn't necessary any longer. He himself had given over the money. The prisoner had been released and freed. There was no longer any need for the collected funds.
Upon hearing this, the gabbaim tried to give Rav Yonason the money anyway. They claimed that he should at least take what they had collected, even though it was but a percentage of the total sum. "We, the members of the Jewish community, also want to have our portion in this great mitzvah of Pidyon Shavuyim!" Rav Yonason, however, answered that he had already given what he had given and he didn't want to take money from anyone else.
The gabbaim left the house dejected; they and the rest of the city had not been able to participate in this great mitzvah: the redemption of such a great talmid chochom. But the Rav had poskined and what else could they do?
After a while Rav Yonason began to think what would happen when his wife found out that he had given away their entire dowry. Certainly she would be very angry. He would not be able to pacify her; as is well known from the gemora that you can't calm someone down when they are angry.
What should he do? He decided to go away for a few days to give her enough time to find out that the money was gone and then calm down. Then, when he returned, he could appease her and explain the importance of the mitzvah of pidyon shavuyim and the reasons for his hurrying to pay the entire sum straight away not waiting for the city to collect it.
In the meanwhile the priests discovered the escape and that the Jew who had been sentenced to death was gone. They quickly figured out who the culprit was who had arranged his escape and in their wrath they decided to do to the guard what they had wanted to do to the Jew.
The guard, in the meanwhile, realized that the noose was quickly tightening around his neck; he decided that he had better hurry and make his getaway as quickly as possible. But being a veteran guard in the church for so many years he had, in the passing of time, managed to steal a considerable amount of money and gems from the church treasury. He didn't know what he was going to do with such an amount of money. Such a weight would definitely slow down his getaway.
With a heavy heart he went and collected his wealth, the money and precious stones, and the 3000 ducats he had just received, and put them into a barrel. He went to Rav Yonason's house and asked his wife, "Where is the rabbi?"
His wife answered that he would not be back for a few days. With no choice, and fearing for every second, the guard went and told her everything that had happened and that he had to quickly run for his life. "I am not prepared under any circumstances that the priests who want to kill me should get this money. No! No! I will not leave them anything!"
With this he started showering down praises on the head of Rav Yonason. "I found such a courageous Jew, who was ready to give from his own private money 3000 ducats in order to save his friend! I am sure that he is an honest and straight fellow. Therefore, first of all, I am returning as a present the 3000 ducats that your husband gave me. Besides this, I am entrusting him to watch over all my other possessions in this barrel. If I return safely, certainly he will return it all to its rightful owner. But if I do not return, I prefer that all my money and valuables remain with a person of his caliber. He most certainly will know how to use it for good things."
Thus such a large fortune found its way into the house of Rav Yonason. The church guard went on his way, and fled very far away. However, it didn't take long for the news to reach the church elders and the priests sent a patrol to find him. They pursued him and finally captured him and immediately drowned him in the river.
Obviously, Rav Yonason's wife now knew the entire story. She understood that HaKadosh Baruch Hu had paid them for the good and noble deed her great husband had performed. Not only had their money been returned to them, but they had been rewarded with a fortune tens of times greater than previously. Of course she was overjoyed and eagerly awaited to hear the footsteps of her husband returning in order that she could give him the tremendously good news. In the meantime, Rav Yonason, totally unaware of what had transpired, was on his way home. As he approached his house he racked his brain what to tell his wife. How could he reveal to her what had happened with the 3000 ducats? As he approached the front door, lost in his thoughts, his wife ran out to greet him, beaming with joy. "Don't worry, I know everything. And HaKadosh Baruch Hu has already paid you back more than double!" She stood there and related to him what had occurred during his absence. She was certain that he would also be ecstatic on the Heavenly blessing they had received.
But it didn't happen. As soon as Rav Yonason heard her story he broke out and started crying uncontrollably. He wailing, he howled. His wife stood there dumbfounded. "Why are you crying? The Ribono Shel Olam has paid you such a great reward for the mitzvah!"
Rav Yonason answered her, "That's why I'm crying. I see that Heaven hurried to pay us back for the mitzvah. That means they are throwing the mitzvah back at me in the face! If Heaven would have been pleased with this mitzvah, they would have left the reward for the next world. Chazal tell us that there is no reward for mitzos in this world. Only a mitzvah that is unwanted is paid back here. It's as if they are telling the person, 'Here, take it and get out of here!'"
Rav Yonason stood there in uncontainable grief. He couldn't calm himself down. Finally he decided to fast for three straight days. Afterwards he would ask Heaven in a dream why they didn't want his mitzvah.
So it happened, and Heaven answered him, "Yes, you were justified in crying. We have no interest in your mitzvah! You didn't allow the gabbaim and the rest of town to get involved. You didn't give them the opportunity to participate in this mitzvah! You wanted the whole mitzvah for yourself. Please, take it!" The lesson of this story is frightening. One must contemplate how much one must be careful and understand that mitzvos are not his private property. One can't be greedy and keep mitzvos for himself. He must give opportunity for whoever can to join in. Only then will his reward be complete and accepted.
Shema Yisrael Torah Network