Thursday, February 28, 2019



Mr. Alan Rosenstock is the President of Tomchei Shabbos in Rockland County. One morning a few years ago, when I was still a rebbe there, Mr. Rosenstock spoke to the students of Ashar. I was very moved by his message, the gist of which follows:
“I often ask people what they think the message of Tomchei Shabbos is. Most people don’t get it. It’s not only about the many food packages we deliver to people who need it each week, or the tzedakah given, or the many acts of discreet chesed that are performed.
“The main message of Tomchei Shabbos is about participation and becoming involved. The Jewish people need the diverse talents, abilities, and efforts of every single Jew. Everyone has something to give.
“Tomchei Shabbos is not comprised of people who do what they can do, but of people who do what they need to do!
“One of the classes here in Ashar collected 660 cans for Tomchei Shabbos. Tomorrow morning, hundreds of families who wouldn’t otherwise have breakfast, will be enjoying the cans that were collected. If I asked those students before they started if they thought they could collect 660 cans, I would imagine most of them would have replied that there was no way. But that class did what they needed to do.
“For a few years, I had the zechus to be a personal driver for Rav Shimon Schwab zt’l. His shul, K’hal Adath Jeshurun in Washington Heights, had a choir that would perform every other year at a concert that took place in the shul’s social hall.
“Following one of the concerts, Rav Schwab explained that we recite in Shema, “You shall love Hashem, your G-d, with all your heart, and all your soul, and all of your [2]מאד.” מאד refers to anything that a person feels very connected to; anything that is “very much” for that person. i.e. whatever talents and capabilities one has, they must be channeled and used in the service of Hashem, which includes bringing joy and benefit to others.  
“When I was driving Rav Schwab afterwards, I asked him why in the second paragraph of Shema, it repeats that one must serve Hashem with all his heart and soul, but doesn’t include that one must serve Hashem with all of his מאד?
“He replied that whereas the first paragraph of Shema is speaking to the individual, the second paragraph of Shema is directed at the collective whole. Every individual has unique talents, and the Jewish people need the investment of every one of those talents. Our role is to figure out what unique contribution we have that can benefit the public. The mandate to give מאד was specifically instructed to each individual.”

What is the ideal manner in which one should serve G-d?
“Take from among you donations for Hashem, anyone whose heart elevates him shall bring for the donation of Hashem, gold, and silver, and copper…”[3] There were a total of thirteen materials that could be donated to the Mishkan. Of those materials, anyone could donate as much as he wanted. The only exception was silver, from which there was a mandated silver half-shekel that had to contributed.[4]
Sfas Emes notes that the word kesef (silver) is similar to the word kisuf (yearning). By nature, every Jew is created with an innate feeling of love for Hashem. The only reason a person may not feel that love, is because he has dulled it or buried it beneath the morass of sin. But if one repents, he will rediscover that the innate yearning to connected with the divine. Every Jew had to contribute an equal amount of kesef symbolizing every Jew’s innate kisuf. All other materials, representing all other talents, could be contributed at will. Every person has his own unique talents and resources and those are up to him to decide how much to donate.

Every Friday night, a woman lights the Shabbos candles ushering in the sanctity of the holy day. Then, she recites a beautiful tefillah, praying for the spiritual growth of her children[5]. “May I merit to raise children and children’s children, wise and understanding, lovers of G-d, those who fear G-d, men of truth, holy progeny, who cling to G-d, and light up the world with Torah and good deeds, and all of the work of the service of the Creator.”
At last year’s Agudah convention, Rabbi Moshe Tuvia Lieff related the following poignant thought in the name of Rav Motta Frank:
Our greatest value is Torah study. We recite each day, “Talmud Torah k’neged kulam – Torah study is equal to all of the rest of them[6]”. When a woman prays for her children, it would seem appropriate that she conclude by praying that their children light up the world with Torah. Why does the prayer continue that her children light up the world with “good deeds, and all of the work of the service of the Creator”?
In conveying the answer, Rabbi Lieff raised his voice, “My friends, the very question demonstrates a deficiency in us. What have we done to ourselves? We have undermined the contributions and efforts of many wonderful people. What about the young man who does not have the capability to sit and learn all day but performs acts of chesed?! Does the fellow from chaverim who comes to change your tire on the side of the road at 1 a.m. not light up the world?! Yes, our ultimate dream is for our children to be Torah scholars. But there are other forms of the service of the Creator, and we dare not undervalue and underappreciate them.
As a woman lights the Shabbos candles, she beseeches G-d to help her children light up the world, foremost in Torah, but beyond that, in any manner and form of service to G-d.

The message of the mandatory half-shekel tax is that we all need each other. On our own, we are halves lacking completion. We need the contributions of every single Jew in fulfilling “all the work of the service of the Creator”. The most basic trait we must externalize is our yearning for greatness and connection with G-d. Once we are in touch with that natural emotion, we can bring forth the other materials/talents we uniquely possess – each on his own level.
The Mishkan was built by a nation whose hearts were elevated to participate. We continue to maintain the communal sanctuary of the Jewish people through our collective efforts.

“You shall love Hashem with all of your ‘very much’”
“Who light up the world with all the service of the Creator”

Rabbi Dani Staum, LMSW
Rebbe/Guidance Counselor – Heichal HaTorah
Principal – Ohr Naftoli- New Windsor

[1] The following is the lecture I delivered at Kehillat New Hempstead, Parshas Vayakhel/Shekalim 5776
[2] The actual meaning of מאדך refers to one’s resources, that one must love Hashem with all of his money/resources. Rav Schwab’s explanation was based on the literal translation of the word מאד – very much.
[3] Shemos 35:5
[4] Rashi (Shemos 25:3) explains there were three separate portions of silver donated. The first was the mandatory half-shekel given by every Jew, which was used to create the silver sockets that supported the massive beams which surrounded the Mishkan. The second was the annual mandatory half-shekel given by every Jew which was used to purchase the communal offerings brought in the Mishkan. The third portion was optional donations of silver which were used to create the various silver vessels used in the Mishkan.
[5] Men are grateful to R’ Baruch Levine who enlightened us to the text of this powerful tefillah through his well-known, moving song to these words. Before that song was produced most men weren’t aware of the tefillah.
[6] i.e. all of the other virtues and mitzvos enumerated in that Beraisa (Shabbos 127a)


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