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Peninim on the Torah

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Rabbi A. Leib Scheinbaum
Hebrew Academy of Cleveland


And they shall take for Me a Portion. (25:2)

Rashi adds: Li LiShmi, "Take for Me - for My Name." What is Rashi teaching us by adding Li LiShmi - for My Name? Obviously, if a person contributes to the Mishkan which will serve as the repository for the Shechinah, Divine Presence, the person is doing so for Hashem. What does adding His Name add to the equation? The Chavos Yair offers a penetrating explanation which has powerful ramifications for the way we should give tzedakah, charity. He quotes the Shlah HaKadosh who posits that one who gives charity to a poor man - even an amount as miniscule as a perutah, penny, actually partners with Hashem, as the Shem Havayah, Divine Name, of Yud Kay Vov Kay, combine together with him in the act of giving tzedakah. How does this occur?

The perutah, smallest denomination of coin, resembles the yud, the smallest letter of the Hebrew alphabet. This is followed by the hay, or kay (since we do not articulate Hashem's Name), the fifth letter of the Hebrew alphabet, alluded to by the hand with its five fingers that holds the penny and gives it to the poor man. The ani, poor man's, outstretched arm bears resemblance to the vov, the sixth letter of the alphabet, and shaped like a vertical straight line. Last, we have the poor man's outstretched hand - once again, with the five fingers alluding to the hay. Thus, when one gives tzedakah, his act of giving embraces the Name of Hashem - Yud, Kay, Vov, Kay.

The Chavos Yair parlays this exposition with a frightening addendum. One must be careful not to ignore the ani, poor man, when he seeks alms. One who waits for the poor man to beg, to stretch out his hand in solicitation, is creating a situation whereby the poor man's outstretched hand, the "vov" and "hay" of the beneficiary precede the "yud" and "hay" of the benefactor. This causes Hashem's Name to be spelled out of its proper sequence! This is the underlying meaning of Ki tzaddik Hashem tzedakos aheiv, yasher yechezu Faneimo, "For righteous is Hashem, those of righteous deeds He loves, those who are upright will behold His Face" (Tehillim 11:7). As Hashem performs acts of tzedakah constantly and at all times, even before one supplicates Him, Hashem wants His people to act likewise - whereby they give the poor man his due, before the man resorts to begging. Yasher yechezu faneimo, "those who are upright (straight) will behold His Face."

This is what Rashi is teaching us when he writes LiShmi, for My Name. The act of giving tzedakah should symbolize Hashem's Name in its proper sequence. This means that one should give before the poor man must suffer the indignity of stretching out his hand to beg.

One morning, following Shacharis, morning prayer service, the holy HoRav Meir, zl, m'Premeshlan, one of the early Chassidic Masters, sat in his "office" accepting people and soothing the hearts of those who came to him to confer his blessing on them. Suddenly, a poor widow entered the anteroom and demanded to see the Rebbe immediately. An argument ensued, as she demanded to go ahead of the line, while the gabbai, attendant, claimed that this was exactly the purpose of a line: there was an order of sequence. She would enter when it was her turn. The woman was not accepting "no" for an answer. Her needs were great - and immediate. She could not wait. Suddenly, the Rebbe called out, "Arye! Allow her to enter. She is in need of alms and must have them immediately."

The woman entered as the Rebbe lifted a large denomination of coin from his table, held it momentarily, and transferred it from one hand to the other. Afterwards, he placed the coin on the table and motioned for the woman to take it.

He later explained his seemingly strange behavior. "You should not think that "Meir" (as he would refer to himself) was playing with a coin. We are taught that one's intention upon giving tzedakah to a poor man should be on Hashem's Name." He then explained that the penny is the yud; the benefactor's hand, the hay; the poor man's outstretched arm, the vov, and his hand the concluding hay. If the beneficiary is a woman, it presents a problem, since the benefactor may not place it in her hand. Physical contact with a woman is prohibited. Thus, Rav Meir transferred the coin from one hand to the other so that he would have the "benefit" of the second hand/five fingers, to allude to the second hay. This gives us something to reflect upon at the next opportunity we have to give tzedakah.

And they shall take for Me a portion. (25:2)

Tanna D'vei Eliyahu says that when Klal Yisrael accepted the Torah with a resounding declaration of Naase' v'Nishma, "We will do and We will listen," Hashem immediately informed Moshe Rabbeinu that it was time to collect contributions for the building of the Mishkan. What relationship is there between Naase' v'Nishma and V'yikchu Li terumah? The Admor m'Mishkoltz, Shlita, offers the following homiletic exposition. He quotes the Bnei Yissaschar who cites the Maharash Primo, zl, who questions our ability to benefit from this world. We are quite aware that Yaakov Avinu and his brother Eisav "divided" their assets, with Eisav taking Olam Hazeh, This World, and Yaakov focusing on Olam Habba, the World to Come. In other words, Eisav received the physical world, and Yaakov became heir to the world of spirituality. What right do we, Yaakov's descendants, his heirs, have to enjoy the bounty of this world?

The Bnei Yissaschar first cites the Talmud Shabbos 88b which interprets the pasuk in Sefer Bereishis 1:31, Vayehi erev vayehi boker yom ha'shishi, "And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day." Hashem made a t'nai, stipulation, with the Jewish People, "If you will accept the Torah - good. If you will not accept the Torah - I will return the world to its pre-Creation status of tohu va'vohu, astonishingly empty. We derive from here that the very existence of the world is only because we accepted the Torah. True, this world belongs to Eisav, but without us - there would be no world - period. Eisav would have absolutely nothing! Therefore, Eisav and his minions have no reason to dispute our enjoying this world. We now understand why Hashem, upon hearing Klal Yisrael's declaration of Naase' V'Nishma, responded with a call for donations to the Mishkan. Once the Jews replied in the affirmative, thereby ratifying the "deal" of accepting the Torah, the world was saved. As saviors of the world they were thus permitted to partake of its bounty. Hashem said, first things first - now that you have, give for the Mishkan.

In an alternative exposition, the Kedushas Tzion, zl, m'Bobov, also quotes the Talmud Shabbos, in which Chazal say that the Heavenly Angels came before Hashem with a claim of bar metzra, which is halachic dictum requiring one who is selling his field to grant first rights to his close neighbor to purchase the field. This right was exercised by the Angels, claiming that they were closer to the Torah whose origins were in Heaven. Thus, it should remain with them. There is one override to the rule of bar metzra. If, by selling the field to his close neighbor, the owner will incur a monetary loss, he does not have to sell it to him.

With this in mind, we have a reason for Hashem informing Moshe to have the nation immediately donate money for the Mishkan. The Angels wanted the Torah - the Jews wanted the Torah. But, if the Jews contributed towards the Mishkan, there would be a solid financial reason for them to receive the Torah instead of the Angels. For, otherwise, the "Owner" would incur a monetary loss.

From every man whose heart motivates him, you shall take My portion. (25:2)

Much has been written in praise of those who generously open their hearts and their wallets to help those who are in need. What about those who volunteer to raise funds for people and organizations in need? The commentators write that he who contributes charity, receives his due reward regardless of his motivation - be it l'shmah, for the sake of the mitzvah or the person and organization in need, or he is acting beneficently to promote himself. The same does not hold true with regard to the one who has the "fun job" of raising money. He must do so l'shem Shomayim, for the sake of Heaven; otherwise, his reward is very limited. This is derived from V'yikchu Li, they shall take for Me - LiShmi, for My Name, l'shem Shomayim.

Horav Shimshon Pincus, zl, explains the tzedakah process and its benefits with a meaningful analogy. The world we live in may be compared to a stormy sea, its waters raging. Man sits in his boat being thrust up and down with the rising and descending waves. Torah and mitzvos are the boat that protect man from the raging world. They are his boat of salvation, his only line of protection from the dangers of the sea. One who sins, inevitably cracks his boat and falls prey to the destructive elements. He is thrown into the water, cast about by the waves, and, ultimately, becomes their victim.

There is, however, one way to have one's life spared, even as his boat capsizes: a lifeline. He grabs hold of that lifeline and literally holds on for dear life until the storm subsides and he is able to make his way to dry land. Man's lifeline is the mitzvah of tzedakah. When all else has failed and he is drowning in the raging waters, the mitzvah of tzedakah allows him to hang on. Even if the Heavenly Tribunal has issued negative decrees against him, he may continue to cling for dear life to his lifeline of tzedakah.

One who inspires another Jew to perform mitzvos is certainly performing an enormous favor for him. It may, at times, appear to be a thankless endeavor, but it is not. Hashem will pay him gratitude, and perhaps, at one point, the person whom he inspired will also remember his origins. When it comes to the mitzvah of tzedakah, however, it is much different. Then, he is quite possibly saving one's life. Availing someone the opportunity to give tzedakah is tantamount to throwing him a lifeline.

Imagine that the Heavenly Tribunal has issued a decree that has severe negative - even drastic - implications for a person. It could be a dread illness, a car accident, a severe financial crisis, and it appears that the decree will be carried out. Out of His infinite compassion and love for all of us, Hashem sends a poor man, or someone representing either a group of people in need, or an organization that is hurting. Hashem is thereby sending him a lifeline, an opportunity to be spared from the crisis, the accident, the illness. Tzedakah tatzil mi'maves, charity saves from death, is a very real and absolute dictum. It really does save.

Perhaps if we kept this in mind, the next time we are approached with an opportunity to give tzedakah, we might respond with a more appealing countenance. Rather than looking at the person in need as if he was someone about to rob us of our hard-earned wealth, let us make believe that he is here to throw us a lifeline to the future.

Horav Yaakov Galinsky, Shlita, relates an incident which took place during one of his many fundraising trips abroad on behalf of his yeshivah. He attempted to obtain an appointment with a well-known philanthropist. He made the call, asked to speak with the man of the house, and received a negative reply: "The man of the house is not home." When will he be home?" Rav Galinsky asked. "In a few hours," was their response.

A number of hours elapsed and Rav Galinsky presented himself at the man's doorstep. "I am sorry; the man of the house was delayed. He is not yet home," was the curt response he received. "When do you expect him?" he asked. "We have no idea," was their way of "graciously" dismissing him.

Rav Galinsky returned to his waiting car and dialed the man's home. "Hello, I have an important message for Mr. "so and so". Is he available?" "One moment," was the response. A few seconds went by and lo and behold, the elusive man of the house came on the line. Rav Galinsky introduced himself and said, "According to halachah, I really must apologize and beg your forgiveness." "Forgiveness?" asked the man, "What did you do to me that requires my forgiveness?"

Rav Galinsky explained, "At first, when you instructed your family to inform me that you were not home, I suspected you of uttering a falsehood. After all, I asked for the man of the house, and I was told that he was not home." At first, I perceived this as an outright lie. But then I realized it was the sad truth. The baal ha'bayis, true master of this house, is the yetzer hora, evil-inclination, who is in absolute control over here. I erred in thinking that you were in charge. Sadly, you are obliged to the yetzer hora. You have my sympathy."

They shall make a Sanctuary for Me - so that I may dwell among them. Like everything that I show you. (25:8,9)

The Mishkan, Sanctuary, was an edifice dedicated to the service of Hashem. A structure of stone and mortar becomes consecrated through the devotion and commitment to G-d of those who build and maintain it. Anything not built solely for G-d has little to no meaning. Man's ability to transform and elevate mere mundane, physical ingredients into a structure of holiness indicates the incredible spiritual powers vested within him. K'chol asher Ani mareh osecha, "Like everything that I show you," is a reference to Hashem showing Moshe Rabbeinu the exact form of each of the Mishkan's vessels. Thus, Moshe had before him an image of what each of the finished products should look like.

The Sanctuary represents our nation's obligation to sanctify itself in its personal life. Each and every one of us can create his own personal Sanctuary - within himself, through the medium of his devotion to Hashem. How does the image of the Mishkan which Hashem portrayed to Moshe Rabbeinu fit into the equation? It may serve as a blueprint for the collective Sanctuary, but it hardly assists one in creating his personal Mishkan.

The Admor m'Kretchnif, Shlita, explains this with a homiletic twist of the pasuk. Hashem said to Moshe, "They (Klal Yisrael) shall make themselves into a Sanctuary, for Me, by having my Shechinah repose within them. How will this transpire? K'chol asher ani mareh osecha, "I will simulate you to others so that they will see your behavior and total devotion to Me. When they will perceive your commitment and holy demeanor, they will have a living paradigm to emulate." Thus, as Moshe sanctified himself to Hashem, he was by virtue of that very process presenting the archetype eved Hashem, servant of G-d.

V'hayu einecha ro'os es morecha, "And your eyes will behold your teacher" (Yeshayahu 30:20). Imagery is a powerful motivational tool. When one sees greatness - one aspires to emulate and reproduce himself in that image. I present the following narratives, one which extols positive imagery, and the other which intimates the everlasting loss to oneself of overlooking and ignoring the image before him. In his Warmed by their Fire, Rabbi Yisrael Besser shares an episode concerning Horav Elazar Menachem Shach, zl, which demonstrates the long-lasting effects of seeing an image in a positive light:

The saintly Rosh Yeshivah of Ponevez was an individual to whom Torah study was life itself. Though aged and physically weak, he received strength and succor from the time spent with his precious seforim. Every line of Talmud, Rambam, Rishonim added strength to his frail body.

One day, a prominent mechanech, Torah educator, visited and presented the Rosh Yeshivah with a difficult request. As an educator who via his educational programs came in contact with students from many yeshivos in Bnei Brak, he was able to organize a siyum Mishnayos, completion of the entire Mishnah, which would be attended by thousands of youngsters from the area. The siyum was to be held in a hall adjacent to the yeshivah. Was there any way the Rosh Yeshivah could attend? No speeches, no fanfare - just to walk in and grant the children the treat of seeing the gadol hador, preeminent Torah leader of the generation. It would mean so much to them and would be remembered their entire lives. Rav Shach apologized profusely, saying that he was simply physically exhausted. The Rosh Yeshivah was a centenarian upon whom every step took its toll. The mechanech felt bad, but understood that it was simply too much for Rav Shach.

After the gentleman left, Rav Shach turned to Rav Toib, his close confident and sort of aide, and asked him if he "agreed" with his decision not to attend the function. Out of deep reverence, Rav Toib hesitated, but, then respectfully said, "I must tell the truth, but I wish to do so by relating a story." The Rosh Yeshivah agreed to listen.

"My father-in-law, Rav Michel Fried, survived the horrors of the European Holocaust. He lost everything - family and physical possessions. His world as he once knew it was gone. Despite the tremendous losses and mind-numbing emotional pain, he retained his strong emunah, faith, in the Almighty. I once asked him how he was able to persevere in his faith after all that he had suffered. So many others had weakened; what kept him going?"

He replied that as a child, the venerable sage of Radin, the Chafetz Chaim, visited his village, and the entire community went out to greet the great Kohen Gadol. "My father lifted me so that I could gaze at his radiant face and look into his piercing eyes. From that moment on, that image was seared into my mind," his father-in-law said. He would never forget that image of holiness and splendor. His countenance stood before him during the most bitter and lonesome moments, when all was dark and gloomy. That image pulled him from the depths and gave him the strength to look forward with hope to the next day.

Rav Shach listened intently to the story. He remained deep in thought for a moment, and then the elderly Rosh Yeshivah arose from his chair, donned his frock and hat, and went out to see the children.

The second story is also about perception - or - the lack thereof. I came across this story in Rabbi Pesach Krohn's latest literary endeavor, In the Splendor of the Maggid. In the early 60's, Horav Shlomo Freifeld, zl, was engaged as principal of the nascent Bais Yaakov High School of Toronto. Rav Freifeld later devoted his life to establish America's kiruv, Jewish outreach movement, via the yeshivah he founded in Far Rockaway. A dynamic, charismatic and brilliant scholar, he could converse with any Jew, regardless of age, background or religious affiliation about almost any subject under the sun; so broad was his breadth of knowledge. As a role model and rebbe, he had very few peers.

While Toronto was a booming city on the Jewish religious scene, its suburbs ran a far and dismal second. The small Jewish community of Hamilton, Ontario was geographically a mere forty-two miles south of Toronto, but from a Torah perspective, it lagged far behind. There was an afternoon Talmud Torah that catered to the Jewish children of its secular Jewish community. It was run and staffed by bnei Torah, Orthodox men and women from Toronto, who made the trip more as a labor of love than anything else.

The Talmud Torah decided to have a fund-raising dinner, and sought a guest speaker who would enthrall the gathering and convey the school's message, as well as their financial needs. They asked Rav Freifeld. We must bear in mind that, while Rav Freifeld spoke prolifically, his appearance bedecked in a long black frock, large black beaver hat, and sporting a full beard and payos, was not what the average secular Jew envisioned in a "progressive" representative of the Orthodox community. In fact, as Rav Freifeld was about to enter the banquet hall, he was stopped by the doorman, who, assuming he was a meshulach, charity collector, said, "Sorry, there is no outside fundraising here tonight." Rav Freifeld smiled and said, "I just happen to be the guest speaker at this event. I hope you will allow me to enter."

Rav Freifeld entered the room to the stares of those gathered for the night's event. A tall, imposing man, bedecked in his classic garb, exuding self-confidence and pride, he exhibited an aura of assured dignity. The people looked at him and wondered if this European-style dressed man could even speak English. They were in for a surprise. Their negative perception was about to receive a wake-up call.

Rav Freifeld ascended to the podium and regaled them with a powerful speech. They were taken by his eloquence, his command of the language, his sensitivity and brilliant scholarship. The audience sat there enraptured, as he captivated them with a powerful message concerning the legacy of Judaism, each individual Jew's heritage and the sense of pride they should all reflect.

Then he stunned the entire audience with, "Let me share with you a story from the theatre district in Manhattan." With a confident smile he looked at the flabbergasted crowd, who could not believe that this rabbi would have a clue that there existed a theatre district - let alone talk about it. Could such a religious, traditionally-dressed man be so cosmopolitan?

Rav Freifeld related the story of a wealthy businessman from a Midwestern community who spent a week in New York. He assured his friend that while in the big city he would make a point to take in a popular musical that was playing on Broadway. He was told that they had heard that the play was sold out for the remainder of the year. Tickets were an impossible commodity. He assured them that for his money, the tickets would be readily available.

He was wrong. There were no tickets to be had - anywhere. Even the usual scalpers were unable to obtain the tickets at any price. He now had a problem. It was one thing not to see the play; it was totally another for the people back home to discover that there was something his money could not buy. His enormous ego would take a hit. Now, if the people did not know the truth - what could it hurt? So, on the last night of his trip he stood in front of the theatre and asked people who were leaving for a ticket stub and a playbill. He had no trouble with obtaining these useless items. A ticket has value only before the play.

When he returned home, he showed his "souvenirs" to his friends, who were duly impressed. Rav Freifeld waited for the laughter to subside and he concluded with a thunderous voice, "Many of you here in this room are like that gentleman. You have the "stub" of Judaism, but you have missed the real show!" He continued with remarks about Judaism's real history, its beauty, the sanctity of the Jewish home and the deep-felt pride that every Jew should have in being G-d's emissary in the world. He was exceptional, and the audience gave him a standing ovation.

They understood his message and so should we.

Va'ani Tefillah

V'solicheinu komemius l'artzeinu. And lead us upright to our land.

Horav Shimon Schwab, zl, observes that the word komemius, upright, occurs only once in Tanach. V'Eshbor motos ulchem, v'Oleich eschem komemius, "And (I) broke the poles of your yoke, and (I) led you upright" (Vayikra 26:13). It is also to be found in the end of Bentching. Simply, this means that Hashem broke the yoke of the Egyptians over us, and led us out of Egypt in an upright posture. This presents a difficulty, since a Jew is not to walk b'komah zekufah, an overly-erect posture. It bespeaks a sense of arrogance on his part. Rav Schwab remembers when Horav Yeruchem Levovitz, zl, the venerable Mashgiach of Pre-World War II Mir, offered ten zlotys (coin) to anyone who gave the correct answer. Years later, Rav Schwab arrived at what he felt was the correct explanation of the term komemius - as b'komah zekufah, means stretching oneself up to one's full height. Thus, the Torah means that not only did Hashem redeem us from Egypt; He even severed any vestiges of our connection to that abominable culture. We were now able to aspire to achieve our fullest potential. At the time of Mattan Torah, when we accepted the Torah with a resounding declaration of Naase' v'Nishma, "We will do and We will listen" we were elevated to the highest level of spiritual development. We were b'komah zekufah, at our fullest spiritual height.

In memory of
Our parents, grandparents
and great-grandparents

R' Naftali Michoel ben Nesanel z"l
Maras Sara Riva bas R' Yaakov Meir Hacohen a"h

The Rothner Family

Peninim on the Torah is in its 20th year of publication. The first fifteen years have been published in book form.

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