Thursday, March 11, 2010

Gifting G-d

This week, in the parsha of Vayakhel and Pekudai, we come to the close of the second book of the Torah and as well conclude the discussion of the building of the Mishkan, the sanctuary of G-d in the wilderness. In the mostly technical reading, we read of a wonderful problem faced by Moshe and the Mishkan's artisans. The Torah says, " And the wise men who were doing all the sacred work came to Moshe, each from his respective assignment. And they said to Moshe, "The people are bringing to us more than we require for the work that G-d assigned for us to do"". We are told that in response Moshe made a announcement in the Camp that no one should any longer bring raw materials to the Mishkan, that indeed they had enough.

If the Israelites of the wilderness had their issues, stinginess was not one of them. Our ancestors were clearly generous. When it came to building the Golden Calf, to Aharon's disappointment, they immediately gave of their gold and silver. With the Mishkan, lehavdil, they exceeded the needs with their voluntary gifts of fine fabrics, gold, silver, other metals and jewels.

But I think its important to distinguish between the giving in the instance of the Golden Calf from the giving in the building of the Mishkan. When the Israelite's gave for the Golden Calf they were essentially giving for themselves. They were afraid and perceived themselves alone. They wanted security. The generosity they expressed for the idolatrous Calf was a response to their anxiety. It never was about giving but rather about getting.

The generosity the Israelites expressed in the building of the Mishkan was pure. They were giving for G-d, so He might have a home in their midst. They didnt have a personal stake in this.
Their needs were already being met. They were provided food and sustenance daily. The Shekhina provided shelter. The Torah tells us that the forty years in the wilderness even their clothes never wore out. There were no plaques in the Mishkan for which a person might get kavod for his/her donation. No one was poor. No one was deprived. When our parents gave to the building of the Mishkan, it was not about winning favor with G-d. They had no ulterior motive. They had all they needed. Their gift was indeed a gift. The quality of the gift made it suitable for kedusha, holiness, worthy for being formed into the House of G-d.

How rare it is for a gift to be so pure. Our sages have long ago taught us that the only pure kindness we do in this world is with the dead. Caring for the dead, washing the body, engaging in the burial, paying tribute, is called a chesed shel emet, a kindness of truth. It is the only kindness we do where we have no thought at all of being paid back in kind. The dead can't repay us. Every other kindness, even where a purity of heart prevails, is in some way tainted. Its impossible to give to another without some measure, albeit small, of self interest.

Have you ever thought of giving a gift to G-d? You are astounded by my question? You say to me, "What are you talking about?. I daven every day and learn several times a week. I keep Shabbat and make sure my children grow up committed to the faith. Every day of my life I am giving to G-d".

Ok, you make a point. But when we do what we do, in accord with what G-d wants of us, do we perceive ourselves as giving Him a gift. Are we not just making sure we stay on G-d's good side.
We are, after all, not the Generation of the Wilderness, we have many many needs and life for us is always uncertain. Sure we do what G-d asks of us, but is it for ourselves or for Him. Do we perceive G-d as needing something from us even as in the wilderness our ancestors were called upon by G-d to give Him a gift in order to build the Mishkan.

You shake your head and wonder what I am getting at. Well let me tell you what happened to me this week. Each shmoneh esray, silent prayer that I say, if my kavana is okay, at the close, I make a specific petition that Hashem should help me find the right shidduch. I include other single people I know longing for the right zivug in my prayer as well, and by name. One morning it occurred to me, Hashem too, the very Hashem I pray too for our shidduch, is pained for being separated from His beloved. Galut, the Exile, causes the Shekhina to suffer. Its not only for me/us that we want the Beit Hamikdash rebuilt. G-d wants it, even more urgently than us.
I thought how is it that I pray for my shidduch and for those I know and don't daven for Hashem to know the joy He so much wants with His children. Why don't I pray for Hashem's sake. How is it that all my prayers, even those that are focused on spiritual matters fail to be cognizant of Hashem and, if its possible to say, His longing!

I realized then that with all the mitzvot we do, I suspect few of us focus on giving to Hashem, on feeling His pain. Rather we focus on receiving from him, on getting our needs met, both physical and spiritual. We dont feel G-d suffering. We feel our own, even in matters of the spirit. Even when we pray for the end of the Exile and the building of the Bait Hamikdash, for our teshuva, its all about us, all very self absorbing. Who has shed tears for G-d?

In the midbar Hashem needed the gifts of Klal Yisrael. They were able to give with a purity of heart. From those gifts the holiest place on earth was built, the Mishkan. G-d had a home with His children. We can't build the Beit Hamikdash today. We can't donate the gold and material. What we can do is tell Hashem how much we want to. We can tell Him how much we want to build a home for Him. How much it hurts us that His Shekhina is in exile, that He is broken and not complete. No, more than tell Him. We can show Him. We can shed a tear for G-d.

The greatest gift we have to give Hashem is our heart. I don't mean our heart as in doing His mitzvot. I mean our heart as in feeling with Him His longing for the ultimate redemption.
May we both soon be united with our shidduch!

Shabbat Shalom

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