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Rabbi Doniel Staum - Parshas Terumah 5774 "A Charitable Heart"
by Rabbi Doniel Staum, LMSW

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“In the faint light of the attic, an old man, tall and stooped, bent his great frame and made his way to a stack of boxes that sat near one of the little half-windows. Brushing aside a wisp of cobwebs, he tilted the top box toward the light and began to carefully lift an old worn out journal from the box.

“Hunched over to keep from bumping his head on the rafters, the old man stepped to the wooden stairway and made his descent, then headed down a carpeted stairway that led to the den.

“Opening a glass cabinet door, he reached in and pulled out an old business journal. Turning, he sat down at his desk and placed the two journals beside each other. His was leather-bound and engraved neatly with his name in gold, while the old worn out journal was his son's. His son’s name, "Jimmy", had been nearly scuffed from its surface. He ran a long skinny finger over the letters, as though he could restore what had been worn away with time and use.

As he opened his journal, the old man's eyes fell upon an inscription that stood out because it was so brief in comparison to other days. In his own neat handwriting were these words:

Wasted the whole day fishing with Jimmy. Didn't catch a thing”

With a deep sigh and a shaking hand, he took Jimmy's journal and found the boy's entry for the same day, June 4. Large scrawling letters, pressed deeply into the paper, read:
Went fishing with dad. Best day of my life[1]

“G-d spoke to Moshe saying, “Speak to the B’nai Yisroel and they shall take for me a portion; from every person whose heart inspires him to generosity, you shall take My portion.”

Why does it say that “they shall take for me a portion” and not “they shall give for me a portion”?

The Apiryon[2] explains that although normally a person does something in order to achieve the result of that action, at times, one may do something because of a tangential benefit that will result.

As a result of the Service performed in the Mishkan[3] the world was filled with blessing and goodness. In fact, since the Temple’s destruction many of the blessings that were omnipresent while it stood have ceased from the world. When the Torah speaks about donating materials for the construction of the Mishkan it does not mention the direct purpose, but the personal benefit that they would have from the construction of the Mishkan, i.e. the bounty and blessings that would result from the Divine Service being performed. Thus, their giving was essentially “taking”, for they were taking the blessing that would result from having a Mishkan.

The Sages explain that whenever one selflessly donates or gives of his resources, finances, efforts, or energy he benefits in innumerable ways that he is not aware of.

In Birchas Hamazon we petition G-d, “ונא אל תצריכנו ה' אלקינו לא לידי מתנת בשר ודם - Please – make us not needful – Hashem, our G-d, of the gifts of flesh and blood…” Rabbi Yoel Teitelbaum zt’l, the Satmar Rebbe, offered a poignant explanation of this request. The Gemara[4] states that there are three partners that contribute to the creation of every person: father, mother, and G-d. One’s bones, sinews, blood, and flesh are the contributions of the parents, while the soul is from G-d. It is G-d’s contribution that composes the essence of life, for the body is merely an external garment/receptacle which houses the soul while it resides in this world.

When one gives charity begrudgingly and with a heavy heart, he is giving solely on a physical level. In a similar vein, if one gives out of guilt or embarrassment, his spiritual/emotional self does not participate in the giving; it is a heartless gift. Normally when one contributes in such a manner he does so with a sour face and an angry demeanor, inevitably causing grief and shame to the receiver. However, one who gives exuberantly and wholeheartedly does so with passion and warmth. Such charity is given with heart and soul, not merely the hand.

In our prayers we beseech G-d that even if we, G-d forbid, are forced to beg for charity and alms, our contributions should be given not merely by “flesh and blood”, i.e. heartlessly and unemotionally. Rather, it should be given with love and care; a contribution of the flesh and blood coupled with the Divine spark of love and brotherhood.

There is an age old question why there is no special blessing recited prior to giving charity? If the mitzvah of giving charity is so important shouldn’t it warrant a unique blessing?

In addition to the many halachic reasons proffered, Sefas Emes relates a practical psychological reason. Reciting a blessing before contributing alms to a poor man creates an invisible barrier between the giver and the recipient. The Torah demands that one relate to a needy person as a subject, not merely an object. The giver must see the poor man as a dignified and valuable human being, not merely an excuse or medium for the giver’s selfish performance of a mitzvah that will enhance his religious experience.

Can one imagine how a needy person would feel if a contributor, check in hand, closed his eyes, and began to recite a blessing with tremendous fervor and concentration? A collector is not an esrog! No matter how important and special the recitation of a blessing is, it cannot interfere with the dignity of another person, the largesse of the contributor not withstanding.

The Sfas Emes’s explanation has important implications for all human relationships. When I was in Yeshiva, an older mentor would often comment that, “nobody wants to be your project”. In other words, if one wants to help someone who is troubled, confused, or downtrodden, he cannot approach him as his “chessed case”. If one does so he will be met with little success, if not downright resistance. He may even be told to “mind your own business”.

The only way to reach or touch another person emotionally is by truly caring about them. Superficial love is detectable and invariably bears resentment. This is one of the most important rules of kiruv[5]. In order to connect with others one needs to sincerely and genuinely care. Before one can have any effect on another he must cast aside his personal agenda of “helping” and focus on loving deeply.

In the words of Rav Shlomo Freifeld zt’l: “If you want to draw someone closer to Torah and you invite them to your Shabbos table, don’t give long-winded speeches at the table. Give him a good piece of hot potato kugel. Then he’ll want to come back!”

When one gives charity it is not enough for him to give with his hands; he must also give with his soul. Despite the loss one incurs when giving, one must remember that at the same time he is “taking” and gaining far more than he seems to be giving. The difference between giving with one’s hands and giving with one’s heart is the difference between a giving that fosters love versus a giving that breeds embarrassment and resentment.

“And they shall take for me a donation”

Went fishing with dad. Best day of my life

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[1] Excerpted from 'To a Child Love is Spelled T-I-M-E: What a Child Really Needs From You'

by Mac Anderson and Lance Wubbels.

[2] Rabbi Shlomo Gantzfried zt’l

[3] (Tabernacle) and later in the Bais Hamikdash (Holy Temple)

[4] Niddah 31a

[5] teaching unaffiliated Jews about Torah observance

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