The Gemara in Maseches Megillah (4b) discusses the possibility of observing Purim and reading the megillah on Shabbos. Rabbah and Rav Yosef agree that Megillas Esther cannot be read on Shabbos, but they dispute why that is.
Rav Yosef says that Purim does not fall out on Shabbos because “eineihem shel aniyim nesuos lemikra megillah.” The impoverished people look at the calendar during the cold months of winter, waiting eagerly for Purim. Purim and megillah offer a promise of hope for the poor. They know that it is a day when people are most generous and they can count on receiving many handouts. If Purim would fall on a Shabbos, the poor would lose the opportunity to raise much-needed sums for their families. Thus, Chazal arranged for Purim and megillah reading to always take place on a weekday.
Chazal bear in mind the needs of the people, and set an example for us, as well. Adar is a month of joy. The poor are happy because they await the Purim contributions, and our happiness is intertwined with theirs.
The month of Adar is ushered in by the reading of Parshas Shekolim, which discusses the obligation of each person to contribute a half-shekel to the Mishkon.
For the rich, machatzis hashekel is a pittance; it doesn’t arouse any feelings of satisfaction normally associated with giving. For the poor, it is an imposition on those already stretched to the limit.
Yet, this mitzvah symbolizes the essence of communal giving, because tzedakah isn’t about the giver. Tzedakah is about the recipient. What the Torah seeks to accomplish with the donation is that the giver negates any self-interest or benefit associated with giving. The motivation in philanthropy should be to bring joy to the needy recipient. By contributing selflessly we are acting like Hashem who dispenses goodness to people without the expectation of receiving anything in return.
Hashem told Moshe, “Veyikchu li terumah – And they should take for Me a donation.” Rashi explains that the word li refers to lishmi. The donations should be lesheim Shomayim and not for any personal reason. The purest form of tzedakah is when it is given lishmah when the person performing it receives no benefit.
Hearts of Generosity
It is interesting to note that the parsha that deals with appealing to the Jewish people for donations to construct the Mishkon specifically does not ask for anyone to give.
The posuk states (Shemos 25:2), “And they shall take for Me an offering, from each person whose heart wishes to donate you should take My donation.” In other words, if a person chooses to give of his own free will, then those in charge should take his contribution. They should not solicit donations for the Mishkon and should only take from people who have generosity in their heart.
Apparently, in order to merit a share in the House of Hashem, a person must willingly give of his money. Someone who needs to be forced, cajoled or flattered to contribute has not earned the right to be part of constructing a building to house kedusha.
A person who appreciates the benefits of holy places – yeshivos, shuls, botei medrash – is the type who contributes to making the world a better place. Thanks to generous people, our world has grown to historic proportions. Because of them, there is enough money to support Torah institutions without having to resort to people who don’t appreciate our mission.
Parshas Shekolim and Parshas Terumah are prerequisites for Purim, the day identified with the mitzvah of kol haposheit yad nosnim lo, when we negate personal feelings and gladden the hearts of the unfortunate.
In the parshiyos that we lain during chodesh Adar, we transition from the redemption of Am Yisroel from a foreign land and the development and evolution of the nation, to the practical details of erecting a Mishkon and bringing korbanos.
In Hashem’s instructions to Moshe Rabbeinu regarding how and from whom to solicit material necessary for the construction of the home of the Shechinah in this world, He directs him to look for a character trait: “Veyikchu li terumah mei’eis kol ish asher yidvenu libo tikchu es terumosi.”
Moshe Rabbeinu was commanded to accept contributions only from people who possessed “nedivus halev.”
The Vilna Gaon explains that although the Shechinah rests in the heart of every Jew, there is a need for a place where all hearts can join together. The Mishkon was be that place and the nedivus lev was be the prerequisite to take part of constructing the gathering place for the Shechinah which resided in the hearts of good Jews. What is it about this attribute that made it so vital?
Feeling for Others
In Parshas Shemos (4:13-14), when Hashem asked Moshe to be His representative and return to Mitzrayim to redeem the Jewish people, Moshe protested and suggested his brother, Aharon, for the position. The posuk states that Hashem was upset with Moshe and told him that his brother Aharon would happily welcome his return to Mitzrayim, joyful that Moshe was selected for the exalted position.
The posuk states, “Vero’acha vesomach belibo – And when he sees you, he will rejoice in his heart.” Rashi states that in reward for his heartfelt joy over the promotion of his younger brother, Aharon merited donning the Choshen, which was worn over the heart, and serving as the kohein gadol in the Mishkon.
Aharon’s selfless joy over his brother’s promotion proved his worthiness to serve in the inner sanctum, lifnai velifnim. Aharon Hakohein, the same person who was happy for his brother Moshe, was the one who was the quintessential “oheiv shalom verodeif shalom.”
Because he was blessed with a good heart that could rejoice for his brother, he was able to bring peace between his fellow Jews. He was able to relate to other people and their problems, drawing people together and minimizing the rifts between them. He was able to accomplish this because it wasn’t about him. It was about them.
Baalei mussar say that to feel the pain of another is to be a mentch, but to share in the joy of someone else’s success requires one to be a malach, an angel.
Aharon, possessing the middah of “vero’acha vesomach belibo,” was angelic, unencumbered by the jealousy that hamstrings lower people.
Nedivei lev, people who characterized by their selflessness, are able to appreciate, rejoice with and work towards the good fortune of others, as they possess a divine middah. The converse is true as well: Where there is envy, jealousy and divisiveness, there cannot be Elokus.
The Mishkon, that ultimate place of hashro’as haShechinah, had to be created through nedivus lev, because the middah is found amongst those who are connected at their roots to Hashem. The nediv lev is able to be generous with what he has and feel other people’s joy, because his life is guided by the belief that no one gets what is not meant for him and that Hashem has a distinct plan for each individual. He models his character after the middos of Hakadosh Boruch Hu, as Chazal prescribe, to be merciful because Hashem is and therefore become closer to Him (Sifri, Eikev).
Nedivei lev understand that we are all brothers and sisters, irrespective of our financial standing, and that each person has a singular role and situation. The heart of the nediv lev is pure and holy, his life a chain of goodness, happiness and greatness. Nedivei lev exist to help and support others. People such as they are integral to the mission of the Mishkon Hashem. They are a source of inspiration to others, and their life is a string of positive reinforcement directed at their fellow man. They can share and give, because they know that they lose nothing by doing so.
Time of Joy
There is no better time than now to start educating ourselves to be forces for good.
Adar is the month of happiness. Mishenichnas Adar marbim besimcha.
This obligation of increasing joy as the month begins is present only in Adar. Even during the month of Nissan, when we celebrate our greatest Yom Tov, there is no mitzvah to be marbeh besimcha.
On Pesach we were freed from slavery and domination by Paroh. Following the neis of Purim, we were still “avdi d’Achashveirosh” in exile. The happiness of the month of Adar requires an explanation.
Chazal derive that on Purim we accepted anew, and willingly, Torah Shebaal Peh. Though delivered to Moshe Rabbeinu at Har Sinai, it came to us through much toil and is mastered to this day only through arduous ameilus.
On Purim, the day that commemorates a miraculous salvation brought about through working hard to do teshuvah, we merited accepting the Torah anew and gladly received the word of Hashem that is arrived at through drashos and ameilus.
We work with our minds and hearts to acquire Torah and thus merit serving as vessels for the Shechinah. Only those who are ameilim in Torah can achieve perfect traits and reach the level of nedivus lev. The devotion to Torah and mussar coupled with the abandonment of selfish thoughts enable man to rise to the level of being able to construct a home for the Shechinah in this world.
People who are selfish are unable to overcome their jealousy and distrust of others. They can’t participate in an endeavor that benefits all equally. Donations that are forced cannot construct a collective home for the Shechinah. The Mishkon can only be erected through unity and shared purpose. The miracle of Purim was achieved through perfect achdus.
When the Jews engaged in discord, the Bais Hamikdosh was destroyed, and because we continue to squabble and succumb to sinas chinom, it has not yet been rebuilt.
Bridging Divides, Spreading Unity
There is so much good in our world, yet, at the same time, there is way too much animosity. There are too many arguments and too many people working against each other. There is an absence of nedivus lev. We must work to overcome the divisions that exist, break down the walls that are being erected, and work together to bring about harmony and generosity – nedivus lev – without enmity, without agendas, and without acrimony.
The Yomim Tovim of Purim and Pesach are times associated with helping the less fortunate. Across our communities and kehillos, there are families struggling to maintain and uphold their dignity. They are our neighbors and friends. They sit next to us in shul and stand next to us in line at the grocery store. We fail to see the load they are carrying and the burden that is breaking them.
No one asked to become an almanah or a yasom, or for their marriage to fall apart, or to lose their job or suffer a financial downturn. It is their lot and it is our responsibility to be there for them.
Part of our own mandate in a season of simcha – the joy of Purim, the simchas Yom Tov of Pesach – is to see to it that our simcha is complete by creating simcha in others. As Jews would bring their maaser sheini to Yerushalayim, they would recite viduy. As the posuk states, they would say, “Asisi kechol asher tzivisoni – I have done as You commanded.”
Rashi explains that this refers to the obligation to be happy and to cause others to experience joy: “somachti vesimachti.”
We take our own simcha to the next level by increasing simcha around us.
We live in scary times. Our brothers and sisters in Eretz Yisroel vote next week, and it is far from sure that anti-religious candidates will be defeated. In America, a socialist is increasing his delegate count and may be on the march to becoming the Democrat Party nominee for president. Even if he doesn’t win, his rise shows how precarious the state of democracy and freedom really is.
A virus is raging throughout China, spreading to countries across the world, with no signs of abating. Nobody knows how this will end and what impact it will have on the world’s economy if it lingers.
Adar is the month of simcha. We need to have faith that all will end well, increasing our tefillos and acts of charity to increase our zechuyos during this eis tzarah.
May we all merit much Adar joy.