Thursday, February 27, 2014


Rabbi Doniel Staum, LMSW
Rabbi, Kehillat New Hempstead
Social Worker, Yeshiva Bais Hachinuch/ASHAR


The American investment banker was at the pier of a small coastal Mexican village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked. Inside the small boat were several large yellow fin tuna. The American complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took to catch them. The fisherman replied that it had only taken him a little while.
The American asked why he didn’t stay out longer to catch more fish. The Mexican answered that he had enough to support his family's immediate needs.
The American then asked, "But what do you do with the rest of your time?" The Mexican fisherman said, "I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take siesta with my wife, and stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine and play guitar with my amigos. I have a full and busy life."
The American scoffed, "I am a Harvard MBA and could help you. You should spend more time fishing and with the proceeds, buy a bigger boat. With the proceeds from the bigger boat you could buy several boats, and with time you would have a fleet of fishing boats. Instead of selling your catch to a middleman you would sell directly to the processor, eventually opening your own cannery. You would control the product, processing and distribution. You would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City, then LA and eventually NYC where you will run your expanding enterprise."
The Mexican fisherman asked, "But, how long will this all take?" The American replied, "15-20 years." "But what then?"
The American laughed, “That's the best part. When the time is right you would announce an IPO and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich; you would make millions."
"Millions?! Then what?"
The American said, "Then you would retire. Move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take siesta with your wife, and stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos."

            The labor involved in the construction of the Mishkan was arduous, but finally it stood complete. “Moshe saw the entire work; and behold! – they had done it as G-d had commanded, so they had done! And Moshe blessed them.”[1] Rashi, citing the Medrash, quotes the blessing that Moshe gave them, “יהי רצון שתשרה שכינה במעשה ידיכם – May it be the will that the Divine Presence rest upon your handiwork.” Moshe concluded his blessing by stating the verse “May the pleasantness of my Lord, our G-d, be upon us – our handiwork may He establish for us; our handiwork may He establish.”[2]
          Kesav Sofer questions the diction of the blessing. When G-d began teaching Moshe about the construction of the Mishkan, He explained the purpose, “They shall make a Sanctuary for Me – so that I may dwell among them.”[3] If the purpose of the Mishkan was so that the Divine Presence could rest there, what was Moshe’s added blessing? If the Divine Presence did not rest there the whole effort would have been a futile endeavor! Was Moshe’s blessing no more than a message of hope that everything work out as planned?
          Furthermore, when one begins a blessing with the words, “יהי רצון - May it be the will” the next words invariably are, “Hashem, our G-d”, thus reading, “May it be the Will of Hashem, our G-d…” What did Moshe mean “May it be the will”? Whose will was he referring to?
          The verse in Divrei Hayamim[4] quotes the words of Dovid Hamelech’s instruction to his son and successor, Shlomo, about the materials he prepared for the construction of the Bais Hamikdash. “With all of my strength I have prepared for the House of my G-d, the gold for [things to be made] of gold, and the silver for silver, and the copper for copper….” The wording seems superfluous. Why does Dovid say that he prepared “gold for gold, silver for silver, and copper for copper”, and not merely that he prepared gold, silver, and copper?
          When G-d originally instructed Moshe to solicit contributions for the Mishkan from the nation, He stated, “Let them take for Me a portion.” Rashi explains that the term “for Me” indicates that the contributions should be purely for the sake of G-d’s Name.
          Kesav Sofer notes that when one donates money or resources he may be doing so to increase his prestige and honor. He may be motivated by the knowledge that he will be lauded and praised for his magnanimity.
One who contributes with such underhanded motivation essentially does not give “gold for gold”. Rather, he gives gold for the sake of honor and to see his name on plaques. For this reason, even one who loves money and wealth may be able to donate great amounts of money to charity. In his mind it is an investment. Some people buy goods and merchandise, while he buys glory and a prestigious reputation.
For the construction of the Mishkan, G-d demanded donations that were offered for no ulterior motive other than for the sake of glorifying His Name. Those who donated gold to the Mishkan had to do so solely for the construction of the golden vessels. Giving to the Mishkan required inner strength to overcome one’s natural selfish love of money and material possessions. There was no personal glory to be gained from the donation, only the benefit of knowing that one had a share in the construction of the House of G-d.
When Moshe blessed the Mishkan by stating that G-d should rest His Divine Presence there, he was not invoking “the Will of G-d.” Rather, he was referring to the “will of the people”. Moshe was conveying to them that the sanctity and merit of the Mishkan was dependent on their desire and will to sanctify the Name of G-d and to perform His Service altruistically. Moshe was saying to the people, “May it be your will that the Divine Presence rest upon your handiwork.” “It is essentially in your hands. If you desire it and strive for it then G-d will surely fulfill His Word that, “They shall make a Sanctuary for Me – so that I may dwell among them”.”

The first of the four special Torah portions read during the weeks prior to Pesach is Parshas Shekalim. The portion discusses the mandatory contribution of a half-shekel to the Temple treasury by every male over the age of twenty.
The first collection of the half-shekel was done in the desert. There is a prohibition to count Jews directly. In order to reach a consensus the nation was called upon to each contribute a half-shekel. The half-shekels represented the population of the nation. The shekalim were then used for the construction and upkeep of the Mishkan.
“…This shall they give – everyone who passes through the consensus – a half shekel of the sacred shekel…The wealthy shall not increase and the destitute shall not decrease from half a shekel – to give the portion of Hashem, to atone for your souls.”[5]
The equal contribution of the nation symbolized the necessity for unity and harmony in their pursuit of national goals. “Passing through the consensus” in the same manner, i.e. contributing the same amount, represented the need for every individual to give up his selfish personal interests for the sake of enhancing national welfare.
The unity also accorded the nation atonement and forgiveness. When the masses join together, the unification alone is an incredible merit for the entire nation.
While the Bais Hamikdash stood, each year the entire nation was required to donate a half-shekel to cover the cost of the daily public offerings. The law demands that all sacrifices be purchased from money collected for that year. The fiscal year for public offerings began and concluded in the month of Nissan. Therefore, the Rabbi's ordained that the portion of the Torah describing the first giving of the half-Shekel be read on the Shabbos of or before Rosh Chodesh Adar, one month before the half-shekel was due this served as a reminder that the due date for the obligatory donation of a half-shekel was imminent. In exile, we read the Torah portion as a reminder of the events that transpired at the juncture of the year when the Bais Hamikdash was standing.
The half-shekel served as a reminder that ultimately we are a people with a collective responsibility to utilize all of our assets and resources for the Service of G-d, which includes caring for all His elite Children. 

Our Sages relate that the merit which enabled us to triumph over Haman and his nefarious plot was unity. Queen Esther demanded of Mordechai, “Go, assemble all the Jews to be found in Shushan, and fast for me… Then I will go into the king though it’s unlawful; and if I perish, I perish.”[6] It was not only with the merit of penitence, fasting, and prayer with which Esther sanguinely enter into the chambers of Achashveirosh. It was also with the merit of the assembly of all the Jews together!
Unity is not limited to feelings and lofty thoughts. It also includes resources and physical abilities. This is part of the reason why giving gifts to the poor is one of the mitzvos of Purim[7]. On Purim – when we were saved because of our selfless unity - we must demonstrate that our money is not merely for retirement funds, luxurious vacations, and self-pampering. “Go, assemble all the Jews” includes being cognizant of the plight of our brethren and seeking to assist them in whatever manner we are able.
Every human being has desires and things that he wants. “Where there’s a will there’s a way”. The question is what the “way” we are seeking is and does that way include the needs of others?

“May it be the will”
“Gold for gold and silver for silver”

[1] 39:43
[2] Tehillim 90:17
[3] 25:8
[4] I, 29:2
[5] Shemos 30:12-16
[6] Esther 4:16
[7] Matanos Laevyonim


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