For much of his life, the Chofetz Chaim lived in abject poverty. On one occasion, his saintly wife complained about the difficulty of her plight. Speaking out of pain, she contrasted their household with that of another family. Those parents, she said, were simpletons, and their children were coarse and ignorant, yet they lived in great wealth and comfort. “While,” she continued mournfully, “we struggle so…”
“Hashem did not bless those parents with great wisdom,” the Chofetz Chaim responded. “Nor were they blessed with gifted children. According to your reasoning, should they also be punished with poverty?
“Baruch Hashem,” the Chofetz Chaim continued, “you were granted a husband who is a ben Torah, and you yourself have been blessed with the ability to discern the truth. There is the expectation that your children will learn Torah. You wish that we be blessed with wealth as well? Where would be the justice in our house being blessed with both spirituality and materialism and their house being lacking in both? Therefore, let us rejoice with what we have!”
Adar has arrived, and so has our obligation to increase the level of happiness that we sense in our hearts. It has been noted that Adar calls for an increase of joy — but there is a certain level of simchah we are all required to feel all year.
For many, this is a very challenging endeavor. There often seem to be a myriad of reasons to quench any surging emotions of joy, and to allow us to get weighed down by worries and disappointments. But when we analyze the reasons that pull us down, they can usually be divided into two separate categories: There are some, including shidduchim, the spiritual success of our children, the ability to pay for our most basic needs, and good health, which call for an abundance of tefillah and strengthening of emunah and bitachon.
Then there are some issues that are very much up to us to decide whether they will become pressing problems. Partly out of peer pressure, and partly influenced by the incessant pursuit of convenience that so permeates American culture, what were considered luxuries only a generation ago — and are still considered as such by some wise individuals — are often deemed crucial necessities.
There is an old Yerushalmi saying, “We didn’t have anything, but we didn’t lack anything.” This is presumably based on an interpretation of some of the most famous words in Tehillim (23:1): “Hashem is my shepherd, I shall not want.” Since Hashem is my shepherd, whatever I need, I have. If I don’t have it, it must be that I am not in need of it.
This week’s parashah begins with the words “Hashem spoke to Moshe, saying: Speak to Bnei Yisrael and they shall take to Me a portion, from every man whose heart shall motivate him you shall take My portion.”
The Torah then lists the various types of materials that were donated by Bnei Yisrael and used in the building of the Mishkan and the clothing of the Kohanim, including metals such as gold, silver, and copper, precious stones, and various types of wool. Also included are skins of the tachash, a creature that existed only at that time. The Targum calls the tachash, sasgina — which is an acronym for the fact that this animal rejoices in and prides itself on its colors.
What is the significance of the fact that this animal was happy about the colors of its skin? Furthermore, unlike the precious metals and stones that belonged to Bnei Yisrael, the tachash was an animal that roamed the desert. Why was it necessary for it to be donated? Couldn’t the master craftsmen who did the building simply go out and procure it themselves?
The Divrei Yisrael of Modzhitz points out that while the wealthier members of Bnei Yisrael brought gold and silver and other valuable items, what were the poor to bring?
He explains that the tachash — which rejoices in and prides itself on its colors —represented the concept of sameach b’chelko — being satisfied with one’s lot and fate.
The tachash wasn’t readily available for anyone to capture. Rather, the poor and the indigent who made peace with their lot and focused on the blessings they did have rather than bemoaning what they didn’t — were the ones who merited to capture the tachash.
The same applies to parnassah in general, the Divrei Yisrael adds. Those who accept their circumstances and are happy with their lot also merit a contemporary “tachash” and merit to earn their livelihoods — even in miraculous ways.
Let us rejoice in what we have!