“Everything Comes From You”
Commenting on the verse in Parsha Terumah that states, “Let them take for Me a portion” (Exodus 25:2), the author of Degel HaMussar, Rabbi Gershon Libmann Zatzal, cites the Baal HaTurim as follows: “Hashem spoke to the hearts of the Children of Israel because the offering they made to Him cost them money.” The Yalkut Shimoni teaches, “Rabbi Avahu says, ‘The construction of the Sanctuary truly honored Israel and atoned for their sin.’ What would have happened to them if they had been stripped of their money? Is it not true that the Children of Israel were but the slaves and servants of the Egyptians, and that the Holy One, blessed be He, took them out by performing miracles for them? Did He not split the sea for them? Did He not enrich them with abundant spoils? Did He not give them the Torah and make the manna come down to them from Heaven? Obviously, they were ready to generously offer gifts for the construction of the Sanctuary, thus demonstrating their gratitude to Him. It was with the greatest of joy that they prepared themselves to do this. Why then did He need to speak to their hearts?” (Yalkut Shimoni 1:363).
Citing the Midrash (Yalkut Shimoni, Terumah 363), Rabbi Yoel of Satmar explains that the word li (“for Me”) always connotes the idea of invariability, of permanence. He then raises the question: “These offerings were destined for the construction of the Sanctuary and the Temple, yet these were destroyed! What then of this idea of permanence?” We may also ask ourselves why the verse stipulates, “From every man whose heart motivates him shall you take My portion” (Exodus 25:2), rather than “From every one of the Children of Israel whose heart motivates him.”
Moses addressed himself to G-d when he experienced difficulties making the Menorah, which was to be fashioned from one solid piece of gold. G-d then showed him a Menorah of fire, and in the end it was fashioned by itself (Tanhuma, Beha’alotcha 3). The question may therefore be raised: Why did Moses not experience difficulties in making the two Cherubim of gold, which also had to be fashioned from one piece (Exodus 25:18)? The Cherubim certainly did not hold fewer secrets than the Menorah, and they were the object of many miracles.
The reason is that G-d wanted to show the Children of Israel that it is He who possesses all the world’s silver and gold (Hagigah 2:8). True, the whole world is filled with His glory, but He Who probes all hearts knows that the evil inclination is particularly strong when it comes to questions of money. It is written, “Ki hadam [For the blood], it is the life” (Deuteronomy 12:23), and damim (money) is also, so to speak, a part of a man’s life. We can well be generous and extravagant, yet money constitutes a great test, especially for the Tzaddikim (Sotah 12a). Pious and upright people experience great difficulty in ridding themselves of all traces of Kelipah (impurity) when it comes to making expenses for performing mitzvot. It requires great faith in G-d to completely disregard money, even though in the final analysis such an attitude enables a man to survive. The Children of Israel had no expenses in the desert, and the manna descended to them from Heaven. The fact remains that G-d had to speak to their hearts in order to make them participate financially in the construction of the Sanctuary, for the evil inclination aims at tainting all mitzvot that involve expenditures of money. My very revered teacher, who instilled in me the very foundations of Torah and who spiritually enriched me for years, once came collecting funds for the yeshiva where I had studied, and thanks to which I managed to become what I am today, thank G-d. It goes without saying that I was very happy to see him, but I have to admit that it was not without a certain amount of hesitation that I gave him enough money to provide for the needs of his yeshiva. This is because when it comes to money, we do not remember our past, as glorious as it may have been. We think, rather, of our wallets and our current financial situation. My Rav understood everything that I was experiencing, and feeling that he had acted improperly with me, he began to speak to my heart. Our talk focused primarily on those happy days when I was a yeshiva student. My heart was then filled with joy, and I doubled the amount that he expected me to give.
The verse in question therefore states ve’yikchu li (“and let them take for Me”) rather than ve’yitnu li (“and let them give to Me”), for G-d promises the Children of Israel that if they bring their offering to Him, He will consider it as a loan (not as an offering), which He will repay them from Heaven. As it is written, “You will take My portion” (Exodus 25:2) by means of the Sanctuary, and shefa (abundance) will come down on them and strengthen their service of G-d.
It is essentially through unity and love for neighbor that we manage to observe the Torah. Hashem commands us, “You shall love your fellow as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18), which is a great principle of the Torah. In the final analysis, G-d is only seeking the good of the Children of Israel. The Sanctuary, which they were to build, was designed to strengthen their service of G-d. The fact remains that to make them participate in that mitzvah, He had to speak to their hearts. When it is our turn to do so, let us act as Hashem did: In asking for a loan or a gift from our fellow, let us speak gently to his heart, with the maximum of tact.
One who engages in Torah study is as if he “gave” something to G-d, Who has nothing in this world other than four cubits of Halachah (Berachot 8a; Baal HaTurim ibid.). The study of Torah must be for G-d’s sake only. The verse stipulates mei’eit ish (“from every man” – Exodus 25:2) because the offerings must reflect the aspect of Torah emet (which is formed from the same letters as the word mei’eit).
The Sanctuary and Temple were indeed destroyed, but the concept of the Sanctuary alludes to one who devotes his life to serving G-d. In the word Mishkan (Sanctuary), we find the letters that form the word nimshach (“following”), meaning that a man should be drawn toward G-d. He should serve Him with all the parts of his body. If a part of a lamb that is to be sacrificed falls off the altar, it is placed back on it. Similarly, a man who has sinned through one of his body parts should repent and correct his behavior. He should then put that part back on the altar and “sacrifice” it to Hashem.
G-d also needs to speak to the heart of the one who, despite all the enticements of the world, chooses to diligently engage in Torah study and make an offering to G-d. Hashem tells him, “Take terumati [‘My offering’ – the Torah]. You will then get your temurati [‘my equivalent’ – I will repay you].” In other words: The one who studies My Torah – instead of going to work to earn money – will be given a double reward.
Let us therefore refrain from harming the one who studies Torah to the detriment of his income, and let us help him with all our hearts. This is the reason why the verse states, “From every man whose heart motivates him,” rather than addressing itself collectively to the Children of Israel, for this is a mitzvah where a person must stand out.
The Talmud teaches that on the first of Adar an announcement is made regarding the Shekalim (Shekalim 1:1). Why do we not go from town to town, from district to district, collecting all the necessary funds? It is because we must first speak to the hearts of the people before coming to ask for their contribution. The word shekalim has the same letters as mishkali (“My balance”) meaning that charity makes G-d’s balance sway in favor of a man’s merits, for in giving charity a man masters his greed and gives his money to a good cause. The Shekalim also allude to unity and love for neighbor, for the half-Shekel offered by the one joins with the half-Shekel offered by the other, and together they form a whole. At Purim, we are enjoined to send gifts to one another (Esther 9:19). Why should we not give them to our friends and acquaintances instead? In our humble opinion, charity is certainly very precious in the eyes of Hashem, but it is much better to willingly send Tzeddakah anonymously to someone we know (or to send it to someone we don’t know), so that the recipient does not find out who sent it and does not ask us about it. That is truly charity par excellence. Who do we call ish (a man)? The one who shares the pain of his fellow and helps him without having been expressly asked. This deed that we perform in the month of Adar should encourage us to continue acting in such a way throughout the year.
The Talmud states, “When Adar begins, we should double our joy” (Taanith 26b). When a person who feels ready to spend money for holy causes hears of the Shekalim (at the beginning of Adar), he becomes filled with joy.