Last week, in Parashas Kedoshim, we learned the mitzvos of leket, shikchah and pe’ah. These mitzvos obligate the farmers of Eretz Yisrael, while harvesting their crops, to leave for the poor the corner of the field, as well one or two stalks that fall away during the reaping (more than that the owner may pick up and keep for himself).
In this week’s parashah, the Torah interrupts the mitzvos of the Yamim Tovim to repeat the mitzvos of harvest-time once again.
Rashi states in the name of Avardimus, the son of Rabi Yosi, “Why did the Torah place these mitzvos among the Yamim Tovim, with Pesach and Shavous on one side, and Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Sukkos on the other? To teach you that one who leaves leket, shikchah and pe’ah for the poor is considered as if he built the Beis Hamikdash and brought korbanos there.”
The Maharal explains why this is so. Like a korban-offering, when one gives to the poor it is as if he is giving to Hashem. As Shlomo Hamelech says in Mishlei, “One who is gracious to the poor has lent to Hashem, and He will pay him his reward.”
In Yaaros Dvash, Harav Yonason Eibschutz, zt”l, states that giving tzedakah is even greater than building the Beis Hamikdash.
Dovid Hamelech told his son Shlomo, “My son, I had in mind to build a bayis for Hashem… But the word of Hashem came to me, saying ‘You have shed much blood and carried out great wars; you shall not build a bayis for My name’s sake, for you have shed much blood upon the ground before Me.’” (Divrei Hayamim I:-22-8)
Whose blood did Dovid Hamelech shed that precluded him from building the Beis Hamikdash?
The Gemara (Brachos 3b) relates that at dawn, chachmei Yisrael came before Dovid Hamelech and said to him, “Our master, the king! Your nation Yisrael needs parnasah.”
“Go and support each other!” Dovid Hamelech answered.
“A handful does not satisfy a lion, and a pit cannot be filled from its own earth,” they objected.
Dovid Hamelech then instructed them to go to war. (According to some, this refers to war against the Amelekites, who were looting and pillaging Eretz Yisrael at the time; defeating them would help restore the nation’s economic health.)
Harav Eibschutz explains these cryptic words.
When Dovid killed the giant Golias, a grateful Am Yisrael showered him with gold and silver. Dovid stored away this fortune for the building of the Beis Hamikdash. Subsequently, when there was a hunger in the land, the chachmei Yisrael came to Dovid with the intention that he should open the treasury and give away this gold and silver to the starving. Dovid Hamelech, however, declined to do so, preferring to save it for the Beis Hamikdash. He chose to go to war instead.
It would seem that an optional war (one in which Am Yisrael was not attacked first) could have been avoided if Dovid Hamelech would have agreed to give away the treasures he was saving for the Beis Hamikdash. As the war was being waged, the poor waited and starved until the war accomplished its intended purpose.
That is why Hashem told Dovid Hamelech that he would not be permitted to build the Beis Hamikdash, for “you have shed much blood,” the blood of starving Jews, bloodshed that could have been avoided.
While we cannot fathom the greatness of Dovid Hamelech, all of whose deeds were l’shem Shamayim, still the lesson here for us is that Hashem prefers the giving of tzedakah to building the Beis Hamikdash.
* * *
Nearly two thousand years since we were driven from our land, we are still deeply mired in a tragic exile. On the spot so holy that the kohen gadol would enter it only on Yom Kippur, our enemies gather to plot against our people. And the majority of our nation is in a deep spiritual sleep, most of them distanced from Hashem and His Torah through no fault of their own.
It appears that every news headline from Eretz Yisrael cries out the fact that we are in galus, and we find ourselves surrounded by danger both physical and spiritual.
Futile is the salvation offered by man; our only hope is the mercy of Hashem. We plead with Him for the geulah sheleimah, and dream of and await the day we will be able to bring korbanos in the Beis Hamikdash. In the meantime, we are confident that our acts of tzedakah — tzedakah being even greater that the building of the Beis Hamikdash — are bringing that glorious day closer.