After an entire portion filled with commandments regarding man’s obligation toward his fellow man, the Torah focuses on a very spiritual aspect of our existence. Hashem commands His nation to build a Tabernacle in which He would figuratively dwell. Thus the Torah begins this week’s portion with a mainstay of Jewish life — the appeal.
The Torah instructs the Jewish nation to contribute gold, silver, and an array of other materials to the great cause of erecting and furnishing a Mishkan (Tabernacle). However the appeal is worded very strangely. Hashem does not ask the people to give; he asks them to take. Exodus 25:2: “Speak to the children of Israel and let them take a portion for me.” The question is obvious. Why does the Torah tell the people to take a portion when in essence they are giving a portion? What is the message behind the semantic anomaly?
Max and Irving went fishing on an overcast afternoon. About two hours into their expedition a fierce storm developed. Their small rowboat tossed and tossed and finally flipped over into the middle of the lake. Max, a strong swimmer, called to save Irving, but to no avail. Irving did not respond to any plea and unfortunately drowned. Max swam to shore to break the terrible news to Irving’s poor wife.
“What happened?” she screamed. “Tell me the whole story!”
Max recounted the entire episode in full detail.
“But what did you do to try to save my Irving?” she shrieked. Max explained once again. “I kept screaming to your husband, ‘Irving, give me your hand — give me your hand — Give me your hand! But Irving just gave me a blank stare and drifted away.”
“You fool!” shouted the widow. “You said the wrong thing. You should have said, ‘take my hand.’ Irving never gave anything to anybody!”.
We often make the same mistake that Irving made. When we hear the word “give” we recoil. In its first solicitation, the Torah is teaching us a lesson. When you give with true heart, you are not giving anything away. You are taking a share for yourself. Materialistic pleasures in which many people indulge are eventually digested and forgotten. The new cars become old ones, the glorious homes fall to disrepair, and the newest gizmos become outdated. The only items that remain are those that we give. They remain in a storehouse of merits and eventually will repay us and our descendants. The Montefiores and the Rothschilds are not forever cherished for opulence and indulgence. They are remembered for their great benevolence and charity. They not only gave for eternity. They received for eternity as well
Dedicated In loving memory of our mother,
Edith Gluck of blessed memory by the Gluck Family
Text Copyright © 1996 by Rabbi M. Kamenetzky and Project Genesis, Inc.
The author is the Dean of the Yeshiva of South Shore.