Thursday, February 18, 2010

Parshas Terumah 5770

Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Terumah

5 Adar 5770/February 19, 2010

One night a few weeks ago, one of our children had a cold and was coughing. Before they went to sleep I picked up the humidifier in order to fill it up with water. As soon as I lifted it I heard the unmistakable sound of clinking coins. When I tried to get them out I realized that they had been inserted into the compartment which housed the motor and the humidifier was more or less useless. When I asked my two older children how the coins had gotten in there, they both replied curtly, “Avi!” Apparently, two-year old Avi decided that the little horizontal spaces from which the humidifier’s vapor blows looked like a pushka. Avi concluded that the humidifier was a wonderful cause worthy of charity and so he promptly contributed to it all the coins he found. How ironic that we couldn’t even use those coins to buy a new humidifier.

The Shulchan Aruch teaches that there is a hierarchy of priorities that one should consider when giving charity. Of course any charity that one gives is a great mitzvah, but there are certain organizations and needs that should take precedence over others.

A few weeks ago, Yeshiva Bais Hachinuch, where I have the privilege to serve as the yeshiva’s Social Worker had the distinct pleasure and merit of being graced with a brief visit by Harav Yaakov Hillel shlita.

As he was preparing to leave, Rabbi Hillel related a profound anecdote from the Chofetz Chaim. A collector for a reputable Torah institution once came to the Chofetz Chaim very downtrodden. “Rebbe, I spend my days knocking on doors trying to explain the great merit of assisting a yeshiva and the extreme importance of the yeshiva. Often doors slammed in my face, I am cursed at, spit at, and humiliated. Last week, a secular fellow came to town collecting for an organization completely antithetical to Torah values. Within one day he collected more money than I receive in three months and he moved on to the next town. Why does he make his money so easily while I have to suffer so much?”

The Chofetz Chaim replied, “You see G-d doesn’t want that person circulating the town promulgating his negative ideas and organization, so He ensures that he receive his money and get out as quickly as possible. But you are promoting a yeshiva. Even when doors are slammed in your face and people scorn you, the bottom line is they are still being exposed to the concept of supporting a yeshiva. That is a message that G-d wants others to hear, and so He arranges that you are around for much longer.”

Rabbi Hillel concluded, “At times people ask me why I have to come to America and leave my yeshiva in Yerushalayim to raise a million dollars a month. I tell them that it is because G-d wants others to hear about the yeshiva and to have the opportunity to take part in its holy work.”

This morning a friend of mine related the following classic anecdote: One morning, a collector met the great philanthropist Baron Mayer Anschel de Rothschild, as the Baron was rushing out of his home. When the collector stretched out his hand, the Baron replied that he was busy and the collector should return later. The collector replied, “Would you allow me to at least say one word to you?” The Baron stopped, “yes you can say one word.” The collector bowed slightly and said, “Gemara!”

“What is the meaning of that?” “It’s an acronym, for “Git Morgen Reb Anschel (Good Morning Reb Anschel).”

The Baron smiled and nodded. “Now that I see you appreciated the word, can I tell you one more word?”

Curiosity overcame him and the Baron motioned for him to continue, whereupon the collector repeated the same word, “Gemara!”

When the Baron looked at him quizzically he explained that it too was an acronym for, “Gebb ma’os Reb Anschel (Give money Reb Anschel)”

Impressed with the man’s wit, Reb Anschel reached into his pocket and handed the collector a few coins. The collector thanked him and then asked to say one more word, again repeating “Gemara!”

“What is it this time?” “Geb merr Reb Anschel (Give more Reb Anschel).”

Someone once said, “Don’t give until it hurts; give until it feels good!” I would add that we must also be careful of who we are giving to. We have to make sure we are prioritizing our charity so that we can get the best bang for our buck!

Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos,

R’ Dani and Chani Staum