by Rabbi Yaakov Menken
My grandfather, Nosson Yitzchak ben Tzvi Herschel, Isaac Golubitsky, passed
away last Friday. This week's LifeLine is dedicated in his memory.
"G-d spoke to Moshe, saying: 'Speak to the children of Israel, that they
take an offering for me; from every man whose heart desires [to give], take
my offering.'" [25:1-2]
The Bais HaLevi, Rabbi Yosef Soloveitchik of Brisk, discusses why this
week's reading, Trumah, follows last week's reading of Mishpatim in the
Torah. As we mentioned last week, Mishpatim describes an abundance of
interpersonal laws. He explains that before a person gives charity with his
money, he or she must first ensure that his or her money was acquired
honestly, and not through theft or dubious business practices. If not, the
"charity" will be of no benefit to the giver, meaning that it will not be
considered a Mitzvah at all.
In the laws of Sukkos, we learn that one cannot use a stolen Lulav,
referring to the palm frand taken during the holiday. If one uses a stolen
Lulav, he has not fulfilled the Mitzvah, and has recited a blessing in vain.
According to the Bais HaLevi, the law here is the same.
This is why the profit Isaiah says ["So says HaShem, 'Guard judgment and do
Tzedakah'" [56:1] (Tzedakah means either justice or charity), because one
must first do one's business with judgment, and then give charity.
Therefore, HaShem first gave His judgments, and only then commanded Israel
to bring their donations to the Tabernacle.
Here we see the close ties between the interpersonal laws and those between
man and G-d. One cannot take a stolen Lulav and do a Mitzvah. One cannot
take stolen money and give it to charity. The principle is the same - and
the bottom line is: one cannot steal.
Before describing the commandment to build the Tabernacle, the Sefer
HaChinuch, the Book of (Mitzvah) Education, offers a preface, in which he
explains the underlying reason why HaShem gave us His commandments: in order
that we perfect and prepare ourselves to receive the great good that G-d
wants to give us. He discusses this in great detail - the Sefer HaChinuch is
available in English as well as Hebrew, and you should try to see at least a
section of this in Mitzvah 95.
Whatever the Mitzvah, be it a ritual or matter of personal ethics, one
should always aim for self-improvement when doing it. And taking a Lulav
should also make us better people, and remind us to be certain that it and
the money which was used to purchase it were acquired honestly.
Text Copyright © 1996 Rabbi Yaakov Menken and Project Genesis, Inc.
The author is the Director of Project Genesis.