Back to This Week's Parsha | Previous Issues
The Gemara asks (Berachos 35a), how can we reconcile the fact that in one place it is written (Tehillim 24:1) “The Earth and all that fills it belongs to Hashem,” while in another place it is written (Ibid. 115:16), “The heavens are the heavens of Hashem, but He has given the earth to the children of men?” The answer is, the first passage refers to the status before one recites a proper blessing; then it belongs to Hashem. The second passage, however, refers to the status after one recites a proper blessing, acknowledging that Hashem is the rightful owner; then it is given to him.
The same lesson can be learned from this week’s parashah in which Moshe Rabbeinu is instructed to make the first appeal for funds to build the Tabernacle as a dwelling place for Hashem. The Torah says, “Speak to the Children of Israel and let them take for Me a portion, from every man whose heart motivates him you shall take My portion” (Shemos 25:22).
Commentators ask why the Torah says “Let them take for Me a portion?” Shouldn’t it rather have said, “Give to Me a portion?” Surely the benefactor gives charity rather than takes.
The answer can be found in the words of the one who made the next major appeal for funds, this time to build the Beis Hamikdash, the Holy Temple in Jerusalem: King Dovid. Dovid expressed his delight with the enthusiastic response of the people, and especially with the joy with which they contributed to the cause. He explains it by saying, (Divrei Hayamim I 29:14), “For all things come from You, and of Your own have we given You.” In other words, the people did not feel that they were giving of their own wealth to Hashem. On the contrary, they realized that everything which was in their possession is His. Therefore, their proper attitude was that they were simply returning to Hashem what is His in the first place: “Of Your own have we given You.”
Therefore, Moshe told them, in Hashem’s name, that they should take a portion for Hashem, rather than give Him one, because, in reality, we are not giving Him anything of ours. We and all that we own belong to Him.
But we saw in the Gemara Berachos above that after one recites the blessing properly, then the item does become his. And so it is with one’s wealth. After he recognizes that he is not really giving anything of his own, since it is not his at all, then it truly become his. This is the deeper message underlying the instruction to the Jews to “take” a portion. Hashem was telling them that only by donating to the Tabernacle with the proper attitude, would they truly become the sole owners of the wealth which was in their custody. For after they acknowledge that it is His, Hashem gives it to them.
This might be the concealed connotation of the passage we read in last week’s parashah, “You shall worship Hashem, your G-d, and He shall bless your bread and your water” (Shemos 23:25). By worshiping Hashem and recognizing that what is ours is really His, the bread and water actually become ours; and then, once they are ours, Hashem blesses them so that they multiply manifold.
Normally, it is forbidden to test Hashem, as it says, (Devarim 6:16), “You shall not test Hashem, your G-d, as you tested Him at Massah.” However, there is one instance about which Hashem not only gives us permission to test Him, but even encourages us to do so. “Bring all the tithes to the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now with that, says Hashem of Hosts, if I will not open for you the windows of heaven, and pour for you an overflowing blessing” (Malachi 3:10).
When a Jew gives ten percent of his earnings to charity, with the proper attitude, not only doesn’t he get poorer because of it; he actually gets richer. There are countless stories of people who have seen this berachah fulfilled before their very eyes. I remember hearing Rabbi Grossman shlita, Founder and Dean of Migdal Ohr in Migdal Ha’Emek, thank a donor for helping him support and educate the thousands of underprivileged children who are part of his institutions. The sponsor replied, “Rabbi, I have to thank you! I can show you in my books that since I began donating to Migdal Ohr, my profits have multiplied.”
Although all of the above is absolutely true, and we may accept it intellectually, the Yetzer Hara is very powerful and often he makes it difficult for us to actually feel that which we believe. Therefore, when we are approached by a poor person, or by someone who is collecting on his or her behalf, or on behalf of a needy institution, we sometimes find it difficult to write a big check because we can’t “part with our money.” The solution for this problem is simple. Everyone should have a separate bank account for his tzedakos. Whenever he receives any income, he should immediately deduct ten percent and deposit it in the other account. At that time it won’t “hurt” that much, since he still has a hefty ninety per cent left for him. From then on, all requests for charity will be dealt with from the other account which he feels no personal attachment with, since he has already designated it for tzedakah. In this way, he will be able to meet his obligations with joyfulness, the way Hashem intends us to.
And he will be surprised to see, as time goes by, how much more and more money he is depositing in his charity account, as Hashem blesses his wealth more and more. Try it. You’ll be amazed to see how well it works.
Shema Yisrael Torah Network