- Rebbe Eliezer ben Yehuda, Ish Bartuta, says: Give Him from what is His, for you and what is yours are His. Similarly, King David says “For from You is everything, and from Your hand we have given to You” (Divrei Hayamim 29:14).
After being taught that the Divine Presence resides among ten people, and even with one person, one understands that all a person has is really G-d’s. Even though it is written “The heaven is heaven for G-d, and the earth, He has given to man (Tehillim 115:16, implying that earthly things have been given by G-d to man) it doesn’t mean that G-d is removed from this (earthly) world, for that would imply no connection with man. In fact, G-d is not removed from this world. Therefore, all that is man’s is really G-d’s, as it is written “To G-d is the earth and all it contains (ibid 24:1). (See end of Ch. 2, Mishna 14)
Additionally we are being taught to avoid the misconception that G-d is with man because He needs man. Human beings do create connections with each other because of their own needs. But G-d has no need for man to give Him anything, since everything is His. This provides an additional reason for teaching this lesson following the previous one, but the first explanation is the primary one.
We are taught in the sixth chapter of Berachoth (35a) “It is prohibited for a person to take benefit from this world without [making] a blessing. And anyone who does so has appropriated sacred property.” (The word used here is “me’eilah,” which is a the term that refers to the crime of making private use of materials or supplies that belong to the Holy Temple ).
The Talmud continues there: “Rebbe Yehuda said in the name of Shmuel: Anyone who derives benefit from this world without a blessing is considered like one who derives [personal] benefit from items of heavenly sanctification, as it is written To G-d is the earth and all it contains’ (ibid 24:1). Rebbe Levi brought a contradiction. It says To G-d is the earth and all it contains’ (implying everything belongs to G-d) and it also says The heaven is heaven for G-d, and the earth He has given to man’ (implying that the earth has been given by G-d to man). The resolution is that the former is before a blessing, the latter is after a blessing.”
The explanation of the above is as follows. (The problem that needs explanation is how does a blessing release the object from the domain of G- d?!) Everything that G-d created in His world was in order to bring Him honor (“kavod”), so His “name” applies to and is an integral part of everything that is in the world. (See Yeshaya Ch. 43:7 – “Everything is called by My Name, and for My honor I have created it…”) Therefore, everything really has heavenly consecration. (Every created object is devoted to a Divine purpose, which would normally preclude any human use, just as objects that are consecrated for the Temple may not be used by private people.) However, G-d is “blessed,” (“baruch”) and one who is blessed bestows blessing on others. Therefore, He can bestow on others what belongs to Him. (Some elaboration on the concept of “blessing”, “bracha,” is needed here. “Bracha” implies increase, beyond what was there to begin with. The root of the word is “bareich” whose letters are bet, reish, chaf. The numerical value of each of those letters has a base of two (two, two hundred and twenty), which is the number implying increase over the basic minimum, one. When we say that something is blessed, it means that it extends beyond itself, with the ability to increase. See Maharl Tiferet Yisrael Ch. 34. )
By acknowledging G-d as “blessed” we state that as the Creator of everything, His purpose was in order to bestow what He created on others. One who extends and bestows on others what He has is the meaning of being “blessed.” Acknowledging this purpose of bestowing His resources on others enables is what frees those resources to leave the domain of the Divine, and to be received by the one making that acknowledgement. Man is now permitted to make personal use what G-d has shared with him.
Everything created by G-d was done to give honor and to glorify Him. Therefore, personal use would be prohibited. But with a bracha, acknowledging G-d as “blessed,” as One who bestows His creation on man, man can now be the proper recipient of something that G-d created. Once man has received it, it no longer has an exclusively sanctified status, and man is permitted to benefit from it. (See more on this in Netivoth Olam, Netiv Ha’avodah, Ch. 14. When man acknowledges G-d as the Creator, he gives honor and glory to G-d, which was the sanctified purpose of the object. If man’s personal use of that object accomplishes its sanctified purpose, then the sanctification can be transferred out, just as there is a process of “sanctification transfer” with objects sanctified to the Holy Temple.) The entire world created by G-d is itself the honor and glory of G-d, as it is written “The totality of the world is His glory” (Yeshaya 6:3, which the Maharal explains differently than most commentaries, although in a way is more consistent with the grammatical structure of the text). Therefore, everything in the world belongs to Him. So when you give up something for G- d that you consider yours, it should not create any bitterness, since it is really His that you are giving to Him.
The Mishna then continues “And similarly King David says…”. This isn’t a real proof text to the thesis that all belongs to G-d, since King David’s actions can be explained in another way. King David was contributing to the building of the Temple, a Temple which G-d had commanded to be built. Certainly He provides man with wealth necessary to fulfill His commandments. In order that a Temple be built, he bestowed great wealth upon the world. It is for this reason that we find such an abundance of wealth in King Solomon’s time (see Kings I, 10:27). What the Tanna sees in the words of King David is that he viewed the world in the way we are being taught, when he acknowledged that “For from You is everything, and from Your hand we have given to You.” The expected text would have read “from our hand have we given You,” implying that we had received the wealth, which is now in our hands, and we then chose to give it to G-d. King David says it differently – “from Your hand we have given” implying that the wealth was never in our hand, but was always within Your domain and never in ours. (The true lesson, then, becomes the difference in the attitude of two people performing identical actions. One can give charity with a feeling of sacrifice – look what I am giving up -of self-fulfillment – this makes me feel so good to help another – or even with haughtiness – look how great I am that I give all this money away instead of using it for… Or one can give charity recognizing that the only reason G-d gave him more than he needs for himself is so that he should be a conduit to provide resources that G-d wants distributed in the world. This is one of the ways we fulfill our responsibility to use ALL the resources G-d has given us to serve Him. See the classic exchange between Rebbi Akiva and the Roman philosopher Tornusrufus, Bava Bathra 10a.)
(One of my favorite jokes that illustrates this point goes like this. A poor person is carrying on a fervent dialogue with G-d in his prayers, asking G-d to let him win the million dollar lottery. Realizing that he needs a hook to convince G-d to help him win such a large amount of money, the person promises “G-d, if I win the lottery, I will give not ten percent and not twenty percent, but a full FIFTY PERCENT to charity.” He thinks for a minute then adds “You know, G-d, You probably don’t have confidence that I will actually give half of it to charity after I win all the money. So here is my suggestion. Why don’t You give me just a half a million dollars, and YOU distribute the other half a million to charity.”)
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