Volume 36, No. 19
4 Adar I 5782
February 5, 2022
on the yahrzeit of
Rabbi Shmuel Elchanan Dimont a”h (2 Adar)
This week’s Parashah opens with the Mitzvah to collect donations to build the Mishkan / Tabernacle. Many commentaries note that the Torah says, “Take a donation for Me,” where we might have expected, “Give a donation for Me.” R’ Moshe Sofer z”l (1762–1839; rabbi and Rosh Yeshiva in Pressburg, Hungary; known as “Chatam Sofer”) explains:
Megillat Esther relates that Haman offered to pay Achashveirosh 10,000 loaves of silver for the right to exterminate the Jewish People. Midrash Rabbah comments that Hashem said, “You wicked person! You are trying to buy what is mine with what is also mine, as it is written (Chaggai 2:8), ‘Silver is Mine!’ and (Vayikra 25:55), ‘For Bnei Yisrael are servants to Me’!” This, writes the Chatam Sofer may be understood along the same lines as the Gemara (Berachot 35a), which teaches that all food belongs to Hashem until we recite Berachot over it; then it belongs to us. Likewise, nothing belongs to man until he uses it to serve Hashem. Until then, it all belongs to Hashem. Haman’s money was not his because he was not using it to serve Hashem; to the contrary, he used it to oppose Hashem’s will.
In this light, continues the Chatam Sofer, we can understand why our verse says, “Take a donation for Me.” When one uses his money for a Mitzvah purpose–for example, to build a Mishkan–it becomes his; he is taking it.
In reality, concludes the Chatam Sofer, it emerges that one who gives charity is always using Hashem’s money. All that we contribute is the desire to do good. (Torat Moshe)
“Speak to Bnei Yisrael and let them take a donation for Me . . .” (25:2)
Rashi comments: “For Me” means “Li’Shmi” / “for the glory of My Name.” [Until here from Rashi]
R’ Yosef Karo z”l (1488-1575; Greece and Eretz Yisrael; author of the Shulchan Aruch and other works) writes: It says in our Parashah, “Take a donation for Me,” and (verse 8), “Make a Sanctuary for Me.” These verses hint that every act done for a holy purpose should include a declaration, “I am doing this for a holy purpose.” This is similar to the custom that, when preparing a chair for Eliyahu Ha’navi at a Brit Milah, we speak the words, “This is the chair of Eliyahu Ha’navi.” (Maggid Meisharim)
Similarly, R’ Avraham Abele Gombiner z”l (influential Halachic authority; Poland; died 1682) writes: One should say about each item one buys for Shabbat, “This is in honor of Shabbat.” (Magen Avraham 250:1)
R’ Yissachar Shlomo Teichtal z”l Hy”d (1885-1945; rabbi of, and Rosh Yeshiva in, Pieštany, Czechoslovakia) writes: When one states expressly that the purpose of his actions is to perform a Mitzvah or a good deed, he receives a form of Divine protection that weakens the Yetzer Ha’ra’s ability to interfere with his plans. In light of this, we can have a new understanding of the verse (Tehilim 122:1), “I rejoiced when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of Hashem’.” Because they said, “to Me”–that they were doing this for Hashem’s honor–there was greater assurance that they would succeed in reaching their goal–the house of Hashem. Therefore, I rejoiced. (Mishneh Sachir Al Ha’Torah p.678)
Our Sages say, “Engage in Torah study and Mitzvot even if it is not Li’shmah / with the proper intention, for by acting not Li’shmah, one will eventually act Li’shmah.”
R’ Yaakov Niman z”l (Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivat Ohr Yisrael in Lida, Poland and Petach Tikvah, Israel; died 1983) asks: Why, then, does Rashi emphasize here that donations toward building the Mishkan / Tabernacle should be given Li’shmah?
He answers: Our Sages teach that Hashem does not deny any person reward for his good deeds. Even a Mitzvah performed not Li’shmah is deserving of some reward, and that reward will be paid.
Nevertheless, writes R’ Niman, creating a place for the Shechinah / G-d’s Revelation to reside requires Li’shmah, as we read (25:8), “Make a Sanctuary for Me”–for My sake alone. (Darchei Mussar)
“Speak to Bnei Yisrael and let them take a donation for Me, from every man whose heart motivates him you shall take My donation.” (25:2)
Why does the verse switch from “a donation for Me” to “My donation”? R’ Gavriel Wolf Margolis z”l (1847-1935, rabbi of Grodna, Belarus, and later Boston, Massachusetts; son-in-law of the legendary Tzaddik “Reb Nachumke”) explains: The Midrash Yalkut Shimoni states that a blessing rested on the donations for the Mishkan so that a small amount went very far. Indeed, this must be so, for how else could the fund-raising be completed in only two days?! As a result, even those who otherwise could not afford to make meaningful contributions were able to make significant donations. “From every man whose heart motivates him”–whether he can afford a large donation or not–“you shall take My donation”–I, Hashem, will turn it into something meaningful. (Torat Gavriel)
This year–a Shemittah year–we will iy”H devote this space to discussing the related subject of Bitachon / placing one’s trust in Hashem.
“Chovot Ha’levavot” (available in English as: “Duties of the Heart”) by Rabbeinu Bachya ibn Pekudah z”l (Saragossa, Spain; early 11th century) is one of the earliest–and still one of the most widely studied–systematic presentations of Judaism’s ethical teachings and fundamental beliefs. The fourth “Gate” (section) of that work is “Sha’ar Ha’Bitachon.”
R’ Bachya begins: In the preceding section [of Chovot Ha’levavot], we discussed the obligation to accept upon oneself to serve Elokim. Now, we will write about the one thing that a person needs most in order to serve Elokim–namely, Bitachon in Him regarding all matters.
He continues: Bitachon has many benefits, whether in connection with one’s spiritual life or one’s material life. [The commentator R’ Raphael ben Zechariah Mendel z”l(1725-1795; Yampola, Poland) explains: Bitachon can assist a person in attaining all of his goals, whether they are spiritual goals or material goals. (Marpeh La’Nefesh)] [R’ Bachya identifies ten benefits that one receives from having Bitachon. The first is:] Bitachon in Hashem places a person’s mind at ease. Everyone has Bitachon in someone or something–if not in Hashem, then in oneself, a friend, one’s wisdom, one’s wealth, etc. This is a two-fold insult: first, not trusting in Hashem and, second, trusting in something else, as we read (Yirmiyah 2:13), “For My people has perpetrated two evils:  they have forsaken Me, the Source of living waters,  to dig for themselves cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.” If a person chooses to place his trust in someone or something other than Hashem, Hashem will seem to abandon that person, leaving him in the power of the person or thing in which he trusts.
R’ Bachya continues: Moreover, one who relies on his own wisdom and efforts will inevitably realize that he cannot accomplish his goals on his own, as we read (Kohelet 9:11), “The race is not won by the swift, nor the battle by the strong, nor does bread come to the wise, riches to the intelligent . . .” Even if one amasses wealth, he will realize eventually that it cannot bring him the happiness he would have attained through Bitachon. [Thus, summarizes the commentary B’yosher Levav, Bitachon is the only way to be free of worries.] (Sha’ar Ha’Bitachon: Preface)
R’ Yitzchak Ze’ev Soloveitchik z”l (1886-1959; rabbi of Brisk, Poland; later in Yerushalayim; known as the “Brisker Rav”) told his student R’ Eliezer Palchinsky z”l (1912-2007; Rosh Yeshiva in Israel) that he received a large dowry, and he decided to invest it in real estate, thinking he could live off of the profits and learn Torah undisturbed.
Soon after, World War I erupted, and all of his properties were destroyed. The Brisker Rav related that, feeling like the earth had opened up and swallowed him alive, he sought strength in the pages of Sha’ar Ha’Bitachon of Chovot Ha’levavot. Upon completing that study, he concluded that the greatest asset a person can have in life is Bitachon. He said: Our Sages teach (Avot ch.4), “Who is wealthy? One who is happy with his lot.” This does not mean, as some think, that accepting one’s lot is the next best thing to wealth. After all, Bitachon does not fill a person’s empty bank account. Rather, our Sages are teaching that the happiness with one’s lot, the peace of mind, that comes from trusting in Hashem is itself the greatest wealth a person can have. (Matnat Chelko p.3)