Terumah: Turn Cruelty into Mercy
We are naturally selfish by nature. When we get out of worrying about ourselves and our problems and give to others, we gain more than what we gave - physically and spiritually.
Posted on 28.01.22
The Torah portion speaks about the preparations for building the Mishkan – the Tabernacle. “Hashem spoke to Moshe, saying: Speak to the Children of Israel and let them take for Me a portion, from every man whose heart motivates him you shall take My portion. This is the portion that you shall take from them: gold, silver, and copper; and turquoise, purple, and scarlet wool; linen and goat hair” (Chapter 25, Verses 1-4). After the sin of the Golden Calf (which we actually read about in next week’s Torah portion) the Jewish people were commanded to build the Mishkan.
Rabbi Natan of Breslev asks a famous question: How could the Jewish people fall into the sin of idol worship after they had just merited to reach the very high level of receiving the Torah at Mount Sinai? He explains, based on a spiritual principle which Rebbe Nachman teaches, that every time we reach a new spiritual level, negative spiritual forces come against us and try to knock us down. If we are not able to find the strength to overcome these forces and break them anew, then we can fall to an even worse spiritual state than before. This is why the Jewish people failed at the end of the first forty days that Moshe was on Mount Sinai. They didn’t break the obstacles and they fell into the sin of the Golden Calf.
They were supposed to have received the first set of tablets when Moshe came down from the mountain. Afterwards, when Hashem accepted Moshe’s prayers of teshuva (repentance) on behalf of the Jewish people, Hashem revealed to Moshe the advice of how to merit to overcome the obstacles and bad spiritual forces which stand in a person’s way at each level. They were commanded to build the Tabernacle by way of tzedakah, charity – which is generosity of the heart – which was the main aspect of building the Tabernacle. The beautiful colors and materials of the Tabernacle shined because they were given from the goodness and the generosity of the Jewish people. Through giving – through charity and kindness – we can break through the obstacles we face and reach new levels in our service of Hashem (Likutei Halachot, Laws of Collecting a Debt etc., 3rd teaching; based on Likutei Moharan, 25th teaching, Part One).
I once learned this teaching in the book Restore My Soul with a friend. We discussed why Rebbe Nachman gives this advice in order to help a person overcome the obstacles and bad forces he faces when he needs to rise to a new level. He said to me that many times when a person faces challenges and difficulties, he tends to be focused on his own problems. He’s worried about himself and not looking at the people around him. However, through the act of tzedakah, he focuses on somebody else and he gives to another person. This changes his focus from himself and his problems to someone else and their problems.
Rebbe Nachman also says in this teaching that the main revelation of Hashem’s greatness in the world is through tzedakah (Restore My Soul, 6th-7th teaching, Part One). Rebbe Nachman explains that the main power of tzedakah is to break the cruelty inside of us and turn it into mercy. Through giving tzedakah we merit to bring down upon ourselves and upon others Hashem’s kindness and abundance (Likutei Moharan, 4th teaching, Part Two).
I told a friend recently that when we moved here to Beit Shemesh from Shomria, a small community in the South of Israel, it was hard for me to get used to giving more tzedakah when I pray at shul. In Shomria I was used to just putting a few coins each day in one of the tzedakah boxes at the back of the shul. There were never any men who would come to the shul during prayers to ask for tzedakah, since it was 25 to 30 minutes from any larger population center. Here in Beit Shemesh I’ve become accustomed to giving a few coins to several of the men who come to the shul every morning collecting tzedakah, on top of the money I give to the shul’s tzedakah box.
Just like Rebbe Nachman explains it was hard for me to overcome the feeling inside of opposition to giving more tzedakah. There is a voice and feeling inside which says, “Hey, it’s my money, why should I give it you? The truth is that all of our livelihood is a gift from Hashem, and He wants us to use our money, each according to his ability, to do mitzvot and acts of kindness. Through tzedakah we reveal Hashem’s greatness in the world. Just as Hashem bestows upon us life and an endless amount of kindness and assistance, so too, we can come closer to Him by emulating His ways. Just as He does kindness, we want to help others with kindness and charity. When we give charity to someone who really needs the assistance, our money and possessions are also spiritually elevated. We are using our livelihood to do kindness, which is a Kiddush Hashem, a sanctification of G-d’s name in the world. Thus, Hashem is revealed more in the world.
Republished with permission from breslov.blog.
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