When a soul will bring a meal-offering to Hashem, his offering shall be of fine flour… (Vayikra 2:1)
As we begin our study of Sefer Vayikra, the Torah introduces us to all the different types of offerings that were brought to the House of G-d. When the flour offering is brought, the Torah refers to the donor as “a soul” — which is not a term used by any other sacrifice. Rashi explains: “[The reason for this is,] whose practice is it to dedicate a meal offering? A poor person. The Holy One, Blessed is He, said, ‘I consider it on his behalf as if he offered his soul!’”
We see from here that although the poor man does not bring an expensive ox, nor a sheep or goat and not even a dove, Hashem values his offering as if he were a person giving up his life to please his Creator. Hashem takes into consideration the toil, self-sacrifice, and pure devotion of the poverty-stricken individual who ignores self on behalf of Hashem. The little that he brings is evaluated as a big deal by the Heavenly standards of service to G-d.
The next passuk heightens the importance placed on the poor man’s offering: “…and he (the Kohen) shall scoop from there his full three-fingers-ful (kometz) of its fine flour … a memorial portion … upon the altar … a satisfying aroma to Hashem.” When all is said and done, the only portion of the flour brought by the poor man that is actually offered is a three-fingers-ful pinch of fine flour. Not only is the obligation fulfilled, but also a “satisfying” amount is accepted by Heaven. What seems so small to the human eye is evaluated on a totally different scale by Hashem.
This principle is not exclusive to offerings in our Holy Mikdash — may it be rebuilt speedily in our days! — but also applies to all matters related to our service to Hashem. Effort and intention, sacrifice and personal cost all go into the assessment of worth. The Gemara relates (Baba Batra 10b) that if one should give a penny to a poor person, the donor is blessed with six blessings, but if one donates the same amount with a smile or a kind word, the donor is blessed with 11 blessings.
The businessman received all who came to his office for charity. He measured the need and gave freely. One day, a man sat back as the others approached one by one and explained their specific cause. Each received a check and left satisfied. The one who sat back seemed too reserved and aroused the suspicions of the donor. When everyone else had left, the donor asked, “How can I help you?” The man asked quietly, “Can you help me with the medical costs for my wife’s treatments? We have no children and are here for a unique treatment that is extremely costly. Here are my letters from the Rabbis in Israel who know my case firsthand. This will be the only time I approach you because I am not an institution — just a man in need.”
Somewhat embarrassed by his doubts about this forlorn individual, the donor wrote a check and gave it to the man. Before the man departed, the businessman put his hand on the petitioner’s shoulder and said, “Don’t worry, it will be good!”
About three years later, this scene was repeated. This time the businessman thought, “He promised not to come back and he waited several years, thinking I would forget. I will grill him this time and get the truth!”
Before he could investigate, the poor man asked, “Do you remember me? I was here three years ago.”
The startled donor sheepishly replied, “As a matter of fact, I do remember. How is your wife? Did the treatment work?”
“No,” the visitor said. “Unfortunately, we are still without children. However, I did not come to ask for money this time. I am in New York investigating some new options and thought I would come and tell you something. The last time I was here, I spent a month in the city scraping for dollars and was embarrassed at every turn. One man in the entire city gave me an encouraging word — you! I’m here to thank you; you have no idea how much it helped us.”
Nothing we do is considered at face value. Hashem calculates the effort and personal sacrifice that is part of any deed. No deed is really so small that a little thought can’t make it priceless in Heaven. Care and think before you act and an inexpensive enhancement can make your small act priceless.