Our Parsha 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 will actually read about in next week’s Parsha) the Jewish people were commanded to build the Mishkan, the Tabernacle. Rebbe Noson asks a famous question: how could the Jewish people fall into the sin of idol worship after they had just merited reaching 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 a person needs to reach a new level, bad spiritual forces come against him and try to knock him down. Sometimes when a person is not able to find strength to overcome them and break them anew, then he can fall to an even worse spiritual state than before. Because of this the Jewish people failed at the end of the first forty days that Moshe went up to Mount Sinai, they didn’t try to break the obstacles and they fell into the sin of the 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, 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 a person will merit to break through the obstacles he faces to reach a new level in his Judaism. (Likutei Halachot, Laws of Collecting a Debt etc., 3rd teaching; based on Likutei Moharan, 25th teaching, Part One)
When I was learning once 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, he gives to another person. He changes his focus from himself and his problems to helping another person. 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) The main power of tzedakah, Rebbe Nachman explains, 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 Bet 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 would go to prayers 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 Bet 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. It was hard for me, as Rebbe Nachman teaches, 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?’ However, in truth, all of our livelihood is a gift from Hashem, and He wants us to use our money, each according to his ability, to fulfill mitzvahs and acts of kindness. Through tzadakah we reveal Hashem’s greatness in the world. Just as Hashem bestows upon us life and an endless amount of kindnesses 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 and this makes a Kiddush Hashem, a sanctification of G-d’s name in the world. Hashem is revealed more in the world.
(The image is courteous of Chabad.org)