We stand between Parshas Shekalim and Parshas Terumah. Rashi explains that not all donations have the same set of rules. The obligation to give the half shekel for the use of the Korbonos was compulsory, and the exact amount was defined for each person. Whereas the donations for the building of the Mishkan were non-compulsory, and only given out of nedivas Halev—a person’s desire to donate. Thought must be given to why the korbonos were mandatory and the building voluntary. The Ponevitcher Rav and Rav Zalman Sorotskin both point out that people feel fulfilled by donating to buildings and they do not feel that satisfaction when donating for maintenance. Maintenance seems like a bottomless pit whereas a building is finite and when it is complete we feel accomplished.
In truth, everyone understands that a building without the ongoing functions being maintained is useless. The more important donation is for the maintenance and not the building. So in order to prompt us to do the right thing, the Torah mandates an obligation for the donation for the services (korbonos) whereas for the building itself He leaves it to our desire to be generous.
There is a word in today’s lexicon which did not seem to exist 50 years ago: “User-friendly.” What this means is that in addition to the basic functions that a piece of technology can do and how pleasing it looks on the outside, it must be easy to use as well. Sometimes the technology may look really nice on the outside but if the basic functionality doesn’t work in a way that is easy for people to understand, no one will be able to use it! Yet sometimes we are fooled by the shiny exterior mistaking how it looks for what is is supposed to do.
We now understand why the Torah must prod us to give for the korbonos, however, for the building He leaves it to our discretion. It seems that this principle of basic human nature transcends time and still exists in our daily lives. This idea is crucial to keep in mind in our avodas Hashem. There are many times that people are involved in the great mitzvah of chesed yet when they have to deal with the actual recipient of that chesed face to face they behave abruptly. It seems to me that part of the reason that this is the case is because we lose sight of what is really important. Is it to move people along to get on to the next thing in our lives, or is it to spend the time to make the person you are doing chesed for happier? The ultimate in chesed is to make the person more comfortable. When giving a donation, it is not only important to give generously, but it is also important to make the recipient feel important.
This past motza’ei Shabbos, when we came together to solidify our community, I was very pleased to have the feeling that we did not lose track of what is truly important: Feeling comfortable together, and having enjoyment from doing the mitzva of limud hatorah as a community. Thank you and may we go mchayal l’chayal.