Regards From Jerusalem

Thursday, 2 March, 2017 - 10:00 pm

I write my weekly letter this Thursday, not from the comforts of Great Neck, but rather from the noisy, people filled streets in Jerusalem. I am now in Israel in honor of my father’s 20th yahrtzeit and just prayed at the Kotel for my Great Neck family and the entire Jewish family.

Each time I come, there is something I notice that never ceases to amaze me.  We may speak differently, eat differently, drive differently, and even “argue” differently, still we are truly one people, one family, one home.

I hear it in the conversations in Jerusalem, in the busy streets of Tel Aviv, and in the homes of “sabras”.  We all want a safer world, a more innocent life for our families, and our children to grow up with values and high morals.  I am always impressed by the innocence, wisdom, and genuine kind heartedness, I see in the faces and hearts of our people in Israel.

In one home that I visited to help, a tzedakah collector arrived at the door a few minutes later.

I watched in amusement, the kids fight to get to the door first to welcome him: handing over several shekalim of their own money from allowances and waiting proudly for their receipts, which they then compared between themselves to see who had more!

As a traffic safety consultant, I often gave talks on accident prevention. One night after I spoke to a PTA group, the program chairperson thanked me profusely and gave me a check for fifty dollars.

"Giving these presentations is a part of my job," I said. "Could I donate the money to one of your causes?" "That would be wonderful!" she gushed. "We have just the program that could use it. We're trying to raise money so we can afford better speakers."

This week's portion, Terumah, describes the great collective project of the Israelites in the desert: G-d spoke to Moses saying: "Speak to the children of Israel, and let them take a contribution for Me. Take My contribution from everyone whose heart impels him to give… building a Mishkan, a portable Sanctuary, that would serve as the visible home of the Divine presence.

Given by people whose “heart impelled them.” It is a key phrase in the narrative: a motivated, inspired heart is the only one that may contribute to the construction of the Sanctuary.

Why did G-d not impose a tax on the Jewish people to build the Mishkan?

What if the people would not want to give?

The holy Rabbi Israel of Ruzhin said that while some people claim that "If you give you are a fool and if you take you are clever," Jewish tradition teaches us that those who give and think they are only giving are, in fact, the fools. But those who give and understand that they are also receiving at the same time are truly wise.

The truth is that in giving, we actually receive more than we give. And not only a slice of heaven in far-away paradise, but even in the here and now. Certainly, in our relationships--whether family, business or social--our generosity is often reciprocated and we find the other party responding in kind. But it goes beyond giving in order to get back. The very fact that we have done good, that which is right and noble, gives us a sense of satisfaction. "The takers of the world may eat better. But the givers of the world sleep better."

Having a $100,000 court case which would decide the fate of Abraham's economic situation he suggested to the lawyer that perhaps it would be wise to bribe the judge.

"Absolutely  not, this judge is very straight. He would surely decide against the party who sends a bribe." A couple of month later Chaim won the court case. "You see" said the lawyer "it's good you followed my advice and didn't bribe the judge."

"No, I didn't listen to you I actually did bribe the judge, just I sent it in the name of the other party".

The very first United Jewish Appeal was launched this week. Our Parshah deals with the first fundraising campaign in history. Moses initiated it in order to build the Sanctuary in the wilderness as well as all to acquire all the materials needed for the special utensils required for the sacred services. This is, therefore, a good time to talk about the art of giving.

We too, cannot wait too long to train our kids to contribute to society.  If we wait too long, it may be too late.  However, if we raise our children with this generosity of spirit, hopefully, before long, we will be participating in the building of our future Sanctuary, the third and final Temple in Jerusalem.

Warmest regards from the Holy Land of Israel,

Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Yoseph Geisinsky

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