The Anonymous Donation

Under the leadership of Harav Shmuel Eliezer Eidelis, zt”l, famed in the Torah world as the Maharsha, the yeshivah in Ostroh attracted thousands of talmidim from near and far. When the building that housed the yeshivah proved too small for so many talmidim, the local townspeople undertook to build a large, new edifice.

The members of the kehillah gathered to celebrate the hanachas even hapinah. As previously planned, the distinct honor of the actual laying of the new building’s cornerstone was auctioned off to the highest bidder, with the money going toward the building’s expenses.

A local resident approached the shamash of the shul and asked him for a favor.

“I want to purchase this mitzvah, but I don’t want people to know about it. Please do the bidding on my behalf.”

The price of the bids steadily rose, until the shamash, on behalf of the anonymous bidder, won the auction for the extraordinarily high amount of five hundred rubles.

The townspeople looked at each other, wondering who among them was willing to spend so much for this honor. Assuming that the winner had purchased it for himself, they eagerly awaited the moment when the cornerstone would be laid so that his identity would be revealed.

But the purchaser, who was determined to remain anonymous, instructed the shamash to honor the Rav of the city and the head of the yeshivah — the Maharsha — with placing the cornerstone, and the locals remained clueless as to who the mysterious benefactor really was.

After the joyful event had drawn to a close and everyone left for their homes, the Maharsha told the shamash that he very much wanted to meet the individual who had spent so much money on this mitzvah. The shamash summoned the Yid, who revealed to the Maharsha that in reality he wasn’t all that wealthy. The reason he had donated such a significant part of his fortune was that he did not have any children.

The Maharsha gave him a brachah that he should be blessed with a son, and that the child should learn in this very yeshivah. The brachah came to fruition: When the boy became bar mitzvah, his father brought him to the yeshivah.

At first, the staff of the yeshivah declined to accept him, citing the fact that boy was so young. The father approached the Maharsha, reminded him of his brachah, and the bachur joined the yeshivah.

Harav Ben Zion Mashkud, z”l, quoted in the sefer Kehillos Yitzchak, uses this story to explain a passuk in this week’s parashah (Shemos 35:29): “Every man and woman whose heart moved them to bring for any of the work that Hashem commanded to make through the hand of Moshe, the bnei Yisrael brought a nedavah to Hashem.”

At first glance, it seems perplexing that the Torah saw fit to add the words “bnei Yisrael” — after all, it is describing the actions of the men and women identified at the beginning of the passuk.

Chazal (Moed Kattan 9a) teach us that following the inauguration of the Beis Hamikdash, each participant merited that his wife should give birth to a son. For, as the Alschich and many other meforshim explain, the Mishkan and Beis Hamikdash symbolize the fact that Hashem — so to speak — rests with each and every one of us. When the Ribbono shel Olam saw that the Bnei Yisrael were giving of themselves with such devotion for the Beis Hamikdash, he gave them the ultimate reward of meriting future generations, in whose hearts was a Mishkan to Hashem.

In this light, the passuk can be understood to mean that in the merit of their opening their hearts and giving so generously of their own possessions for the Mishkan, they merited “bnei Yisrael,” children who themselves were righteous and worthy. These children were themselves considered as if they were a “nedavah” to Hashem, because they were born in the merit of the donations.

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Once again we have merited to arrive at Erev Shabbos Shekalim, the first of four unique Shabbosos, when we are blessed with an additional Torah reading, and in many communities, the recital of Yotzros during davening.

In those glorious days when the Beis Hamikdash stood in Yerushalayim, every member of Klal Yisrael was reminded on the first of Adar to bring half a silver shekel, to be used to purchase the korbanos.

In most cases, individuals form an attachment to their possessions and find it hard to part with them, especially if they worked hard to earn this money. When they give to tzedakah, they are giving of themselves, a first but crucial step in dedicating one’s heart totally to avodas Hashem.

As we pine for and await the glorious day when we will once again be able to contribute toward the korbanos, we read this parashah, so that the recitation of our lips should be in lieu (for the present) of the korbanos. We also seek to gain inspiration from this lofty mitzvah in our everyday lives.

May we all merit to do so.