Wednesday, Sep 28, 2022

A Giving People

The Chofetz Chaim would invest much effort into choosing the right people to raise funds for his yeshiva. He would explain that the posuk in last week’s parsha states, “Veyikchu li terumah,” meaning that the appointed people shall collect contributions to the Mishkon. It doesn’t say, “Veyitnu li terumah,” that the people should donate to the Mishkon.

This is because the Jewish people are generous and understanding, and they respond to appeals for financial assistance. What is needed are proper, qualified, trustworthy, and energetic people to collect money from the masses.

He would add that the primary qualification for a fundraiser for a yeshiva is someone who is adept at battling the yeitzer hora. This is because the yeitzer hora abhors seeing people donate to Torah causes, for he knows that doing so reaps many rewards for the donors, enabling them to overcome his efforts to mislead them.

It is much more effective for the yeitzer hora to target the fundraisers, seeking to weaken their resolve, than going after individual donors to convince them not to give. By demoralizing one fundraiser, he can accomplish more than by working on one hundred people and trying to convince them not to give. It is much harder work, and just as he endeavors to make people lazy, he also looks for the easier way to get the job done.

There is a common expression, “Yisroel nitboim venosnim,” Klal Yisroel generously responds when solicited, (based on a Chazal in Yerushalmi Shekolim 1a). The roots of the thousands of shuls, yeshivos and mekomos haTorah from Israel to Spain, Egypt, Morocco, Poland, Lithuania, Russia, the United States, Australia, Hungary, Poland, Brazil, Argentina, Canada and everywhere in between are found in the parshiyos of these weeks.

There are many firsts celebrated in our world, many events that are termed historic. The parshiyos of Terumah and Tetzaveh are the first recorded campaigns of any type. The first construction campaign was for the Mishkon, as we learned in Parshas Terumah last week. The Bnei Yisroel, with generous hearts, contributed more than enough of the supplies that were required to construct the first home for the Shechinah.

In this week’s parsha of Tetzaveh, the opening appeal was for shemen zayis zoch, the first drop of oil squeezed from olives, which was used to fuel the menorah. Moshe Rabbeinu is told, “Ve’atah tetzaveh…And you shall command the people to bring donations of pure olive oil” (27:20).

The donations for the Mishkon, as described in last week’s parsha, were not actively solicited, but were accepted from people who, on their own volition, chose to donate them. In this week’s parsha, Hashem told Moshe to command the Jewish people to donate the specially pressed olive oil. Several explanations are offered as to why regarding the contribution of shemen zayis zoch, the posuk uses the word “tzav,” which denotes that it is a command, not a suggestion. One is that preparing the menorah’s oil was a cumbersome and time-consuming task; hence the term “tzav.” Another explanation is that the donations to the Mishkon were a one-time occurrence and the need for oil for the menorah was ongoing for generations.

A few pesukim later (28:3), Moshe is told, “Ve’atah tedaber el kol chachmei lev asher mileisiv ruach chochmah – And you shall speak to the wise of heart whom I have filled with the spirit of wisdom,” and discuss with them the obligation to fashion the special clothing the kohanim wore as they performed the avodah in the Mishkon.

When it came to the bigdei kehunah, Hashem didn’t tell Moshe to demand that the capable people tailor the clothing the kohanim would wear in the Mishkon. Rather, He directed Moshe to tell them what was needed. This is because when addressing perceptive, insightful people, implicit speech is sufficient. They get it. They are able to perceive the opportunity to contribute and appreciate the role they can play in the house of Hashem. They don’t have to be cajoled and persuaded.

Throughout our long history, any time a need arose, there were two reactions. There were people who had to be forced to participate, prodded and embarrassed into contributing. Then there were those who were smart and good enough to be generous, kind and giving. When the Moshe Rabbeinu of the generation asked for something, the people came forward.

It is thanks to goodhearted people that we have been able to survive through the ages and thrive in times such as today, when, thankfully, we are blessed with people who understand their role in sustaining others and supporting Torah mosdos at historic levels. Look at all the good that goes on in our world. Look at the people who write large checks, one after another, on a regular basis, enabling our community to grow and flourish at unprecedented levels. They have been blessed by Hakadosh Boruch Hu with financial success and appreciate that their gifts come with responsibilities.

The theme of recognizing our obligations resonates throughout the parsha.

Moshe Rabbeinu’s name does not appear in Parshas Tetzaveh, even though he took a very active role in everything described in the parsha, for reasons connected to this theme.

When Hashem saw that Moshe stopped to gaze at the phenomenon of the burning bush (Shemos 4:14), He saw in him the potential for greatness and leadership, and told Moshe that He would be sending him to lead the people out of servitude. However, Moshe demurred and Hashem became angry with him. The posuk states, “Vayichar af Hashem,” Hashem was very upset with Moshe, but the posuk doesn’t expound on the effect of the anger.

Rabi Shimon bar Yochai (Zevochim 102a) suggests that Moshe was in line to receive kehunah as well as malchus. He forfeited the opportunity for kehunah when he initially did not respond positively to Hashem’s request that he lead his enslaved brethren into freedom.

As a result of that “charon af,” divine anger, Moshe lost the kehunah that was to be entrusted to him. His family was replaced by Aharon and his sons to serve as kohanim, whose task was to serve in the Mishkon and create harmony between Hashem and his nation.

The Baal Haturim explains that the Torah was sensitive to Moshe’s feelings and therefore omitted his name from the parsha that details the particulars and measurements of the bigdei kehunah. He was hurt by the loss of the position that required the special clothing prescribed in the parsha. In a show of sympathy, and not to cause him more aggravation, his name is not mentioned as these halachos are transmitted.

Tetzaveh reinforces the timeless truth that we are all expected to fulfill a mission. When the orders come our way, we must seize them. Otherwise, we risk losing everything. Moshe was a melech meant to serve as kohein gadol as well. When he demurred, although well-intentioned, he caused charon af to enter the world and his malchus was weakened. The opportunity for serving Hashem via kehunah was taken from him.

Within every one of us, there is a measure of royalty, malchus. We all have within us the ability to make a difference, to take responsibility, and to master a mission. There are people who need help. Some need a shoulder to cry on and some need a listening ear, a friendly message and brotherly warmth. Or, we can shirk the responsibility, make believe we didn’t notice, and be too busy and too involved with ourselves to bother with others. We can either rise to the occasion or slither away. It’s up to us whether we claim the mantle and rise or sink into selfish oblivion.

It can be difficult and time-consuming, but most of the time, we can be lifesavers just by showing up. Other times, it can be more complicated, but we must do the right thing anyway. People who show strength and determination in the face of bullies and bloggers earn eternal blessings and gratitude. Those who are scared to get involved in helping a good person when he needs friends show themselves to be small people.

Those who have the strength and determination to stand up to scoffers and leitzim are rewarded with the bris of shalom. The ones who seek peace for themselves by ignoring the evildoers and those who spread vindictiveness, hatred and machlokes in our world are just as guilty as the perpetrators. If you take a stand when you can make a difference, you awaken the malchus within you. Those who sit off to the side and chuckle as they scroll through the latest meshugas and discuss the lashon hora of the day diminish internal, inherent malchus of bnei and bnos Yisroel.

In this parsha, we can hear a harbinger of the upcoming Yemei Purim and the defining question of the Megillah: Umi yodeia, who knows, im l’eis kazos higa’at lamalchus? Esther Hamalkah feared approaching the king to ask him to save her people. Mordechai admonished her, saying, “Who knows if the reason you were put in the position of queen was to save the Jews at this very moment?” (Esther 4:14).

Every one of us has moments when we hear this posuk, when we know that we can make a difference. When instances such as those occur, we need to accept the responsibility and rise to the challenge.

Maran Rav Elazar Menachem Man Shach would recall the hanochas even hapinah of the yeshiva in Kletzk, where he served as a maggid shiur. The rosh yeshiva, Rav Aharon Kotler, delivered an impassioned drosha about the centrality of Torah and the great merit of hosting a yeshiva in their town. When he finished speaking, gabboim set up two large barrels at the site where the future yeshiva would be constructed.

The townspeople, who had stood transfixed as Rav Aharon spoke about the yeshiva that would be erected at this site, hurried home. The men came rushing back holding money in their outstretched hands. The women came bearing jewelry and silver. Like their ancestors in the midbar following the call of Moshe, with tears of joy running down their faces, they threw their valuables into the barrels, ecstatic about the merit to build Torah in their town.

When the barrels were overflowing, the people returned home. But almost as soon as they had left, they returned with shovels. They began to dig, eager to create the hole where the yeshiva would establish its home.

The Jews of Kletzk who came running with their jewelry and shovels were the paradigm of eternal chachmei lev who build Torah in every generation.

This week’s parsha teaches us that everyone can be a chacham lev. We don’t need to be forced. We don’t need to be challenged. We don’t need to be embarrassed to do what is right. We hear the voice of Hashem call out to us as we learn Torah and mussar. We are reminded by our parents and rabbeim of what is important and what is not.

Every time we are presented with an issue, we must say to ourselves, “Umi yodeia im l’eis kazos higata?” Maybe the reason Hashem blessed you with what you have is so that you can help out this rosh yeshiva or rov who is in need of assistance, or the hardworking professional who can’t make ends meet, or the lonely person who doesn’t know which way to turn for help or support or just plain old friendship.

Every person has unique gifts that make them special. Maybe you are the type of person the Chofetz Chaim sought as a fundraiser. Although you have a different position, or no position at all, maybe you were blessed with charm and the personality needed to raise money for good causes and good people. Maybe you were blessed with the ability to speak publicly. Sometimes you have to overcome shyness and the natural fear of public speaking in order to use your gift to inspire and be mechazeik people.

Or maybe you are a dentist, like the kind person who took care of me this week when I was in excruciating pain. He went into his office on a Sunday, and worked on me for an hour, diagnosing the problem and doing what he could to alleviate the pain and identify its cause. Not only that, but he reached out to me several hours later to check up on me and to find out how I was doing. He went way beyond what is expected. I had never met him before and he had no obligation to help me.

He could have easily said, “You’re not my patient, and besides, everyone knows that all dentist offices are closed on Sunday.” But because he is a gutteh Yid, a chacham lev, he gave up time on his off day to help a fellow Yid who was in pain.

We live in a time when people are caring and sharing and doing so much good. We live in a time when Torah is growing by unprecedented numbers. And no longer are yeshivos and Bais Yaakovs housed in run-down facilities. Thanks to the kindness and generosity of today’s chachmei lev, the buildings – mishkonos – in which Torah is studied are befitting.

In the zechus of the tremendous scope of the chesed that is done, and the tzedakah that is given, and the Torah that is learned, may we be zoche to the coming of Moshiach and the construction of the greatest building ever, soon in our day.

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