The Heart’s Desire

“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 Chasam Sofer asks why the Torah uses the word “take” rather than “give.”

He quotes a Midrash on this passuk which refers to the time when Haman offered Achashveirosh ten thousand talents of silver in exchange for the annihilation of the Jews. The Ribbono shel Olam said then, “Evil one, you are buying [My people] with My own [property], as it says ‘For Bnei Yisrael are servants to Me, they are My servants whom I have taken out of Mitzrayim,’ and it also states ‘Mine is the silver and Mine is the gold.’”

The Gemara teaches us (Brachos 35a): The passuk states, “To Hashem belongs the earth and its fullness,” which implies that any use of the earth would be considered trespassing on Hashem’s property. But a second passuk says, “As for the heavens — the heavens are Hashem’s, but the earth He has given to mankind,” which implies that use of the earth is permitted to mankind.

This apparent contradiction is resolved by explaining that the former passuk refers to before one recites a brachah, the latter after one recites a brachah.

The Chasam Sofer explains this Gemara to mean that only when one “makes a brachah,” i.e., uses his physical possessions for avodas Hashem, do his possessions really become his own; through avodas Hashem he truly acquires title to them. So the evil Haman never acquired his money for himself, and was “buying” Hashem’s servants with Hashem’s money!

The Torah tells us that Bnei Yisrael “shall take to Me a portion,” for by giving for such a lofty purpose, they are actually “taking” and truly acquiring these possessions. The only thing of their own being “given” by the Yidden is the simchah and good intentions with which they perform this mitzvah.

“From every man whose heart shall motivate him you shall take My portion.” In essence, it is the goodness of their hearts that Bnei Yisrael were giving.

Chazal tell us that Hashem showed Moshe Rabbeinu a sort of coin of fire, and told him “They should give [a thing] like this.” It was the fire burning in their hearts, the joy, the love for Hashem that the Yidden were donating to Hashem and the Mishkan.

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The mesirus nefesh of the Ponevezher Rav, zt”l, for building Torah institutions was legendary. He once expressed his distress to the Chazon Ish over the difficulties he had in fundraising for mosdos Torah. By contrast, for the university near Bnei Brak donors — mostly Americans — gave huge sums of money, enabling it to be built quickly and easily.

The Chazon Ish replied by contrasting two mitzvos in the Torah. One is arei miklat — the cities of refuge that we were instructed to set aside throughout the land for individuals who unintentionally committed a murder. Part of the mitzvah included placing signs directing individuals to the location of the nearest city of refuge.

The second mitzvah is to be oleh regel, to ascend to Yerushalayim three times a year. Unlike to the cities of refuge, no directional signs were erected to Yerushalayim; rather, the olim were told to enter every town and village along the way and ask, “Which way to Yerushalayim?”

The Chazon Ish explained that in regard to the unintentional murderer, if the individual would have had to start making inquiries over how to get to the ir miklat, it would have been the cause for much discussion. About such matters the Torah feels that the less said, the better.

On the other hand, regarding aliyah l’regel, the Torah clearly desires this to be a topic of discussion. Each time the question, “Which way to Yerushalayim?” will be posed, it will inspire and remind the Jews along the way that it is time for them to begin their journey.

The Chazon Ish told the Ponevezher Rav that the same applied in regard to his efforts. About a university, the less said the better. In regard to yeshivos, though, the more effort that it is put into fundraising, the more discussion this will cause, and talking about such matters is in itself a positive thing.

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It has often been said that the chessed exhibited by the Jews of our generation is even greater than in previous generations. Indeed, it is known that the final geulah will be in the merit of tzedakah. Huge sums are being distributed secretly, often with only the benefactor, the recipient and occasionally a middleman aware of it.

At the same time, many of our mosdos are struggling, and it is our obligation to help them as much as possible.

From the tale of the Chazon Ish we can infer that the frenetic fundraising and the discussions that ensue are positive things, hopefully inspiring more and more giving.