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Posted on February 4, 2022 (5782) By Mordechai Dixler | Series: | Level:

The great Yeshivas Chachmei Lublin, the Rabbinical Academy of the Sages of Lublin, opened in 1930, between the two world wars. Under the leadership of Rabbi Meir Shapiro zt”l, the school built a magnificent building which still stands today (although it was ransacked and gutted by the Germans). Much of it is in use as a four-star hotel, though there are plans for a museum on Hassidism to also open there.

Soon after the new yeshiva opened, there was a meeting of leaders of yeshivos across Poland to discuss the dire funding crisis that many of them faced at that time. The media was invited to the meeting, in order to publicize and encourage support for their efforts to raise funds to continue. But a reporter pointedly asked Rabbi Zalman Sorotzkin zt”l, “Why did Rabbi Shapiro just raise and spend so much money to build his yeshiva in Lublin, when that same money could have been used to provide the sorely needed support that you are discussing, for all the existing yeshivos?” Rabbi Sorotzkin gave him the following answer:

In the Torah when Moses collected money for the building of the Mishkan (Tabernacle) there were three collections. The first two were obligatory: the collection for the daily operations of the Mishkan, and for the silver footing of the Mishkan walls. The third collection, for the bulk of the actual Mishkan, including its walls, roof, Holy Ark, Menorah, and Altar, was voluntary.

Why was the building collection voluntary, while funding for daily operations was obligatory? If the Mishkan enabled the daily services and offerings to be presented, why was it necessary to compel people to donate? Wouldn’t we expect donors to jump at the opportunity to help fund these offerings, such that there would be no need for a mandatory collection to cover the costs?

The answer, said Rabbi Sorotzkin, is that it is human nature to be attracted to big projects, like the grandeur of beautiful buildings and elegant furnishings. It is much easier to gather donations for these efforts, as compared to gifts for daily operations, where the donor cannot point to a physical component that he or she made possible. Indeed, Rabbi Shapiro himself had trouble collecting the funds to keep his magnificent building in operation, though that required much smaller sums than the cost to build it!

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