Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Nedivus Lev: Contentment And Gratification

By Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz

From this week’s parsha of Terumah, we can learn several lessons about how to accomplish and build. In the Torah’s instruction of how to raise money for and how to construct the Mishkan, we can glean lessons for today as we seek to build and maintain institutions.

The pesukim in Parshas Terumah state that the Jewish people were asked to donate gold, silver, copper, wood and other materials for the construction of the Mishkan in the midbar. While the posuk mentions donations of gold, silver and copper, Rashi states that the silver necessary for the building of the Mishkan was acquired through the donation of a half-shekel by every Jewish man. The half-shekel was contributed as a means of counting the Jewish nation, and every man gave a coin of the same denomination, a machatzis hashekel, which went towards the bedek habayis.

The Chofetz Chaim explains that the reason that the silver used in the construction of the Mishkan was taken from a mandatory equal contribution was because silver was used to construct the adanim, braces, which held up the Mishkan. Since they were the foundation of the Mishkan, everyone had to have an equal share in them.

Perhaps we can understand this on a deeper level. In order for the Mishkan to be able to house the Shechinah and serve as a repository for kedushah while the Jews were traveling in the midbar, its foundation had to be built on unity. Thus, everyone gave the same amount. Since no one gave more or less than anyone else, there was no jealousy and no one felt that he didn’t receive his equal share in the adanim.

With respect to every other component of the Mishkan, there was no mandatory contribution required per person and no cut-off point. Once the foundation was built on achdus, each person could contribute as much as he wanted or was able to. Kechol asher yidvenu libo. As long as a person was giving happily, of his own free will, there was no limit to the amount he could give and the share he could garner for himself in the Mikdash through his contribution.

This teaches us that if the foundation is proper, there is no limit to the kedushah a person can possess. One who is grounded in achdus can soar and achieve the highest connection to kedushah. Unencumbered by petty jealousy and rivalries, he can muster the nedivus lev needed to attain the highest levels of accomplishment. He can give substantial amounts to the proper causes free of grievances that typically derail people from giving or lead them to donate to unworthy causes, thereby forfeiting the merit of supporting institutions of Torah and chessed.

The posuk therefore states after delineating the various materials which Moshe Rabbeinu was to collect from the nedivei lev, “Ve’asu li Mikdash, veshachanti besocham - They shall construct for me a Tabernacle, and I will dwell amongst them” (25:8). Those who are blessed with giving hearts are the ones who will merit constructing the Mishkan, and they will benefit that the Shechinah will dwell amongst them. The nedivei lev are the ones who are zoche to serve as repositories for kedushah.

A person has to focus on improving himself, rising to the level of purity that allows him to bring more holiness into his work. This is accomplished by laying a foundation of achdus, which, by definition, requires one to curb his ego and subdue his desire for honor and recognition. One who is on that level and dedicates himself to doing what is necessary for the benefit of the community is one who can grow in his devotion to Hashem.

This is a lofty level, attained only by those who truly seek to strengthen their devotion to Hashem, as opposed to promoting themselves. For these individuals, it is the communal benefit that carries the highest priority, even if it brings no personal honor or glory.

We can now understand Chazal’s comment on the following posuk (25:9) which speaks of the construction of the Mishkan. The Torah states, ‘Vechein taasu - And so you shall do…” Rashi quotes the Gemara in Maseches Sanhedrin (15b) which extrapolates that this is a commandment “ledoros,” for all future generations.

The simple explanation is that the way they constructed the keilim of the Mishkan in the midbar is the same manner in which they were to be constructed in the event any were lost. They were also to be fashioned the same way in future Botei Mikdash.

Homiletically, perhaps we can understand the admonition to be a declaration that whenever the Jewish people seek to construct a building for a holy cause, a mikdash me’at, they should also construct a foundation of achdus and then seek out the nedivei lev to solicit their donations.

If you follow the halachos relating to the construction of botei knesses and botei medrash and take care to ensure that the financial aid you count on is from proper sources, then you are guaranteed a measure of success. If you are not scrupulous regarding the sources of your funding and rely upon people who acquire their monies through deceit and deception, then while you may succeed in erecting your mikdash me’at, it will not be worthy of the Shechinah and will not qualify for the posuk of “Ve’asu li Mikdash veshachanti besocham - ledoros.” It will not flourish for long.

This is not meant to demean any mosdos, since we never fully understand why some are successful and others aren’t, but we do see this often times even in our day. Rav Elya Svei would often tell me that you can deduce the greatness of his rebbi, Rav Aharon Kotler, the Lakewood rosh yeshiva, from the growth of his yeshiva. “Despite all the difficulties thrown in its path, the yeshiva continues to grow and flourish,” he would say.

Rashi also quotes the lesson Chazal read into the word “li” in this posuk. Chazal explain it to mean that the Mishkan should be constructed lesheim Hashem.

Isn’t this obvious? For whom else were the people constructing the Mishkan?

It is well-known that when Rav Chaim Volozhiner first approached his rebbi, the Vilna Gaon, about his plan to open the first yeshiva as we know it, the Gaon did not grant his approval. It wasn’t until he came back a second time, much later, that the Gaon gave his blessings to revolutionize Torah study through the opening of the Volozhiner Yeshiva.

The Gaon explained that the first time Rav Chaim presented his plan, the Gaon detected too much excitement in his voice and feared that his intentions may have been tainted a bit. When Rav Chaim returned the second time without the same enthusiasm, the Gaon was confident that his intentions were purely for the advancement of Torah. The Gaon then approved the plan and the rest is history. As long as there was the remotest possibility that the foundation of the yeshiva wasn’t entirely pure, the Vilna Gaon couldn’t approve of its establishment.

The father of one of the roshei yeshiva in the great Talmud Torah of Kelm once went to visit his son. The famed rov was overcome by the sight of so many dedicated talmidei chachomim studying Torah and tears began trickling down his stately elderly face. One of the mashgichim approached him and asked him if he would have had the same reaction to the wondrous site had his son not been a rosh yeshiva in the yeshiva.

Sometimes, there is but a hairbreadth’s difference between our understanding of what constitutes purity of heart and what the Torah demands in order to be the type of person qualified to construct the Mishkan and mikdash me’at ledoros, and sometimes it is more pronounced.

As for chicanery or subterfuge, we can all recognize it when we see it. Although those who engage in such conduct seem to succeed in the short run, we must ensure that whatever endeavor we are working on is worthy of the Shechinah’s Presence. The Shechinah doesn’t rest in unholy places or efforts supported by corrupt people or practices.

A home is a mikdash me’at. The table we eat on is compared to a mizbei’ach. “Bilvavi Mishkan evneh - In my heart I shall construct a Mishkan,” writes the Rishon, basing his poetic words on the posuk, “Ve’asu li Mikdash veshachanti besocham,” and underscoring the importance of purifying our innermost feelings and intentions.

If we are to accomplish lasting achievement and realize contentment and sipuk hanefesh, we must follow the guidelines the Torah establishes for nedivus lev in this week’s parsha.

We cannot expect to carve out for ourselves a corner of holiness, purity and tranquility in this turbulent world if the means utilized to support our lifestyles are hypocritical and unethical.

May we all merit to attain the lofty level of nedivus lev and the permanent gratification which accompanies it.


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