Torah.org Home Subscribe Services Support Us
 
Print Version

Email this article to a friend

Parshas Terumah

Use Your Giving Muscles

Giving away some of one’s material wealth is never an easy thing. Our instinct tells us that what is mine, earned through my efforts, should always remain mine and in my possession. In the phrase of the rabbis, we have “a jaundiced eye” towards others and we resent their imposing themselves upon us for continued help and financial donations. We do not even think ourselves to be selfish for thinking and behaving in this fashion.

After all there is a rabbinic opinion in Avot that states that what is mine is mine and what is yours is yours and that this viewpoint is a balanced and median one. Yet there is another opinion expressed in that very same mishna in Avot that declares such an attitude regarding one’s possessions to be the trait of the wicked people from the locality of Sodom. This is in line with the Torah’s early description of human nature as “being evil from its earliest youth.”

The Torah recognizes human nature for what it is. Man is born as a wild donkey, selfish, screaming, kicking and grasping. The Torah came to adjust human nature to seek higher goals and greater moral and social stature. We cannot completely alter human nature. But we can refine it and direct it towards noble goals and higher purposes.

The Torah recognizes that what is mine is mine and what is yours is yours and yet it points out that this seemingly logical balanced view eventually leads down the slippery slope of Sodomite behavior. One must therefore train one’s self in the art of giving and donating one’s wealth to others, be they individuals in need or worthy institutions and causes such as the Mishkan/tabernacle.

I unfortunately recently spent over a month confined to a sickbed until the infection that I had came under control and I was able to start walking again. The problem was that during that month of complete physical inactivity my back and leg muscles atrophied, so that even though I wished to walk upright and normally again I could not do so without great pain and difficulty. Eventually, I slowly returned to my normal health and my muscles again became reacquainted with bearing my not inconsiderable bulk.

This physical rule applies to charitable giving as well. One who does not give charity regularly will find that the generous hand muscles that sign the check and open the wallet have atrophied so that even when one wishes to give, it is painful and sometimes even impossible to do so. Therefore the Torah places great emphasis in this week’s parsha upon the ability to give freely and voluntarily to the great cause – the holy Mishkan/Tabernacle.

It almost becomes the primary commandment in the Torah, in terms of the attention devoted to it in the holy text itself. This is because most of the other commandments of the Torah require discipline and control, not to give into our base natures, but here the Torah demands that we completely overcome our natural state of what is mine is mine and what is yours is yours.

Here we are required not to merely channel or control our nature but rather to change it completely. And that requires constant effort, training and habitual behavior.

Shabat shalom.

Rabbi Berel Wein


Crash course in Jewish history

Rabbi Berel Wein- Jewish historian, author and international lecturer offers a complete selection of CDs, audio tapes, video tapes, DVDs, and books on Jewish history at www.rabbiwein.com


 






ARTICLES ON NOACH:

View Complete List

Not Better or Worse, Just Different
Rabbi Yaakov Menken - 5756

The Best Policy
Rabbi Raymond Beyda - 5765

Hide the Shame
Rabbi Dovid Green - 5758

Frumster - Orthodox Jewish Dating

Gevuros and History
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5763

Generation to Generation
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5759

Leisure Time
Rabbi Raymond Beyda - 5766

Looking for a Chavrusah?

Three Philosophies at Bavel
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5761

Law and Order
Rabbi Dovid Green - 5760

A Flood of Something...
Rabbi Label Lam - 5763

ArtScroll

One for the Birds
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5756

Don't Shout at Me!
Rabbi Yaakov Menken - 5760

Noah's Spiritual Leadership
Rabbi Berel Wein - 5771

> Dissections and Connections
Rabbi Naftali Reich - 5773

When the Illegitimate Becomes Legitimate
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5758

Compliments -- In The Presence And Outside The Presence Of A Person
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5774

Priorities Define A Person
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5766



Project Genesis

Torah.org Home


Torah Portion

Jewish Law

Ethics

Texts

Learn the Basics

Seasons

Features

TORAHAUDIO

Ask The Rabbi

Knowledge Base




Help

About Us

Contact Us



Free Book on Geulah!




Torah.org Home
Torah.org HomeCapalon.com Copyright Information