The Ultimate Gift

by Rabbi Nussbaum

March 20, 2020
Adar 24, 5780
Candlelighting Time 6:54 PM

The Torah obligates each and every person in the nation to give a half-shekel. From those funds, silver sockets were fashioned to position the planks that formed the walls of the Mishkan. This fundamental support of the Mishkan was shared by everybody. The Mishkan and its components created an atmosphere for the Shechina, the Divine Presence, to reside among us. Essentially, the entire nation became partners inviting the Shechina in to our midst. There were no divisions based upon anyone’s degree of religiosity, the level of one’s adherence to Torah or a person’s tier of scholarship. Everyone was included and all cooperated in this monumental project. In effect, this model of the Mishkan was a favored prevision of how our nation should appear for all generations, everyone assisting and sharing the goal, one and alike.

Chofetz Chaim makes a startling observation. He asserts that truthfully speaking, the evil forces in this world attempt to distract those who are intensely involved in studying Torah. However, since that endeavor is unsuccessful, therefore those who support Torah are next on the hit list. And, unfortunately, the evil inclination is somewhat victorious in swaying their minds from participating in supporting Torah institutions. His nefarious efforts to confuse those who would otherwise clearly desire to help has a profound effect upon our nation. It serves to often weaken the power of Torah and to thwart those who might otherwise develop in to Torah scholars

One of his students who had become wealthy wondered why his tendency to donate for Torah causes had waned over the years. Chofetz Chaim explained that before he became enriched, his contributions were minimal because he was unable to afford more. However, as he amassed a fortune and developed a desire to give more, also his evil inclination became more powerful and strongly interfered with his goal to be a substantial donor. The more he wanted to give, the more the evil confronted him and discouraged him from doing so. And how could he overcome this problem, he was advised to not think too deeply, rather since he knew the value of supporting Torah and its many benefits in this world and the next world, he should just give. He gave an example of one who has to immerse himself in the ritual waters of a mikveh which is located outside without any heating in the winter. The more thought that a person gives to jumping in, the more he will be discouraged from doing so. Therefore, he must just dive in and not consider the consequences.

Chofetz Chaim concludes with a story where a wealthy individual confided that he had left his large collection of Judaica for a certain Yeshiva and his amassed wealth for his children. He was advised to revere his decision and leave a large portion of his riches for the Yeshiva which could use his financial assistance and give his library of Jewish books to his children to guarantee that they would continue to study Torah even after he was gone.           

This time of the year the entire creation undergoes renewal in the physical sense and we look forward to the Yom Tov of Pesach which is a renewal in the spiritual realm. We should endeavor to leave over for our children our rich legacy of Jewish thought and ideas when we discuss at the seder our exodus from Egypt, that place of imprisonment of not only the body but the soul as well.


The leaders of the tribes did not participate in the donations for the Mishkan and the Torah hints upon their lack of discretion to realize the importance of that involvement. However, at the inauguration of the Mishkan they each offered sacrifices and gifts for its inception. There the Torah writes in great length about their interest. Hashem always looks to praise us and mitigates the need to rebuke our lack of service.