Moshe and the Mockers
“Eileh pekudei Hamishkan mishkan ha’eidut asher pukad al pi Moshe…” – These are the calculations of the Mishkan…which were accounted for by the command of Moshe. (Shemot 38:21)
In this week’s parsha, the Torah makes an accounting of where all the gold and silver that Klal Yisrael donated for the building of the Mishkan went. Why did Moshe feel the need to make this calculation and report to Klal Yisrael about how he had used these donations?
The Midrash explains that after the construction of the Mishkan, Moshe overheard a fellow Jew poking fun at his wide neck and knees, suggesting that Moshe was gaining weight – possibly because he’d been dining a bit more lately.
A second “mocker”joined in and said, “What do you expect? I’m sure the man who took charge of building the Mishkan pocketed some of the donations for himself!”
Upon hearing this, Moshe told them, “I promise you, when we finish the Mishkan I will give you a detailed summary of every last penny!” And so he did, in this week’s parsha.
Why was Moshe so concerned with what these “mockers” thought? And if they were interested in finding flaws in their leader, wouldn’t they soon find something else to complain about even if Moshe appeased them now? After Moshe had been Hashem’s messenger to bring the ten plagues, bring the Jews out of Egypt and split the sea, hadn’t he already established himself as a man of integrity who kept his word?
The answer to these questions is simple, yet powerful. We are all familiar with how our bank account works – if you want to take money out, you need to first put money in. In any relationship, we must consider a different type of bank account – our “emotional bank account.” Relationships are built on honesty, kindness and integrity; for a relationship to succeed, one’s “bank account” must be filled with actions which demonstrate these traits. If you make a deposit in the emotional bank account through honesty, kindness and integrity, you build up your credit, and trust is built.
Conversely, when one shows dishonesty, ignores others or acts selfishly, he is making “withdrawals” from this account, and eventually the emotional account is overdrawn.
Every relationship has its rocky moments – these moments are like applying for a loan. If one invested enough into his account, at these moments he can use the credit from this account to save the relationship. If the account is empty and one is in “debt,” however, his dubious credit history makes fixing the relationship difficult.
The sad reality is that while it might take a lot of time and effort to build this credit, it is very easy to overdraw the account with a few careless mistakes.
Parents Trust Account
Consider parenting, for example. Parents who show their children that they are concerned with the children’s best interests will have “credit” available when their children grow into teenagers. If the parents did not inculcate this feeling into the children, however, when the teenage years arrive the children probably will not consult with their parents even if the parents plead and promise the children that now they are interested in the children’s well-being.
Moshe Rabbeinu knew the importance of building trust. Moshe knew that someday, these “mockers” would rear their heads again and question Moshe and the Torah, and he would need credit in the bank. Additionally, Moshe knew that building trust would help ensure that when he said something, Klal Yisrael would know that Moshe was saying it for their best interests, not his own.
Trust between parents and children is especially important in Torah families. One of our strongest resources for emunah – faith in G-d – is the mesora that is passed down from parent to child.Judaism is unique in its claim that over 600,000 witnesses experienced G-d speaking to His nation at Mount Sinai. This testimony has been passed from parent to child ever since then. A child is naturally receptive to this testimony and believes his parents, and is sure that a parent would never lie about such a central life issue.
Unfortunately, sometimes children lose faith in their parents, and the child is ‘at risk’. Throughout childhood, a parent must treat his or her child with the respect due to a person, as opposed to the respect one shows to an e-mail that he can ignore until he is interested at looking at and dealing with it (see “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen Covey, pg. 188).
Rosh Chodesh Adar B
Don’t worry, be (truly) happy!
Mi’shenichnas Adar Marbim Besimcha – When the month of Adar comes one should increase his happiness (Ta’anit 29).
During this month, we are commanded to increase our happiness. First, we must define our terms – what is happiness?
Ice cream makes people happy. However, the happiness the world’s greatest ice cream brings is measurable – it is only 3-4 inches (the distance from the lips to the throat).
The sefer “Orchot Tzadikkim” – (sha’ar hasimcha) lists four ingredients to happiness: emunah (faith in G-d), bitachon (trust in G-d), histapkut (contentment) and sechel (intellect) make one happy. This week, we will focus on contentment.
Contentment means that one feels he is not missing anything. Not only does this bring happiness, it also allows one to give to otherswhen he feels that his cup is overflowing.
Comparing ourselves to others and viewing what we have as relative is a very powerful habit and an obstacle to happiness. It also drives a wedge between spouses, siblings and employees.
The Eye of the Beholder
The Talmud teaches that “mi sheyesh beyado mana rotzeh matayim” – someone who has one hundred of something wants two hundred. Rav Moshe Aaron Stern, the former Mashgiach of Kaminitz Yeshiva, points out that in the Telze Yeshiva, they asked: does this Gemara mean that he wants another 100 (for a total of 200), or that he wants an additional200, for a total of 300? They answered the question based on another passage in the Talmud: “ain adam meit v’chatzi ta’avoto b’yado – when one dies, he does not even possess half of the possessions he desired. Thus, the Talmud must mean that a person who has 100 wants an additional 200, since if he only wanted a total of 200 he would have achieved half of his desires.
The Talmud also relates the following interesting story:
During his quest to conquer the world, Alexander the Great found the gate to Gan Eden. He begged to enter but they refused. He begged for at least something from Paradise. Suddenly, an eyeball was thrown to his feet. None of his advisors were able to explain. Alexander asked the Jewish Sages, and they told him to bring a scale, a kernel of wheat and a bag of heavy gold coins. They weighed the eye against a single grain of wheat and the kernel was heavier. Then they weighed the eye against the gold coins and the eye was heavier. No matter how many gold coins were added to the scale, the eye outweighed them all. Alexander, disturbed, asked for an explanation. The Jewish Sages explained “Gan Eden was trying to tell you something: when the eyes are always prying for more, then they will never be satisfied, no matter how much they get. Alexander, you will never feel content with the amount you conquer. Paradise is reserved for those who feel content with what they had.” (Tamid 32a).
3. United We Stand Divided I Fall
When a Half Makes You Whole:
On each of the four Shabbatot preceding the month of Nissan, we read a special portion. The first of these, read this week, is Parshat Shekalim. Hashem commanded Moshe to count the Jewish nation by having every Jew – rich and poor– give exactly half a shekel. The reason for this seemingly strange method of counting is because it is forbidden to count Jews directly (we are taught that doing so can bring a plague upon us, chas v’Shalom). Also, by donating half a shekel to the Mishkan, the Jews would achieve atonement.
One explanation is that this atonement was in order to outweigh the coins that Haman gave to Achashverosh (see Ba’al Haturim, who learns this from the last letters of the words in Parashat Shekalim, “Miben Esrim Shanah,” which spell “Haman”). What is the connection between the half shekel and the redemption of Purim?
Also, why were the Jewish people commanded to give only a half a shekel, and not a whole? The Noam Elimelech (1717-1787) explains that the half shekel reminds a person to always recognize he has room to grow – he’s not yet “whole”. The Chida (1724-1808), in the name of Rav Shlomo Alcabetz (1500-1580), suggests that one must realize that he always needs others for his perfection.
There’s No I in TEAM
Why does counting Jews lead to plagues? When one counts Jews, each one has to be counted individually in order to make a total sum. One standing alone is not a good thing. That was the power of Haman’s words to Achashverosh, “yeshno am echad mefuzar u’mefurad” – “There is one nation scattered and separate”. To combat this, on Purim we do mitzvos that bring us together – giving Mishloach Manos and Matanos La’evyonim
My Rebbi explained that a lack of unity is not a problem in its own right; it’s a symptom. Disunity is a result of being egocentric and self-centered. Only when a person realizes that he is only half can he consider others as part of his life. The egocentric obstacle to unity is similarly the obstacle to happiness. This is the connection between Parshas Shekalim, Adar and Purim.
In Mishlei, Shlomo Hamelech writes “Leta’ava yevakesh nifrad” – Disunity is brought about by physical desires. As long as one focuses on filling his desires, he can’t see anyone else and unity diminishes.
When someone has problems in his relationships with others, usually something in himself is the cause. By learning how to respect others as people, one can stop focusing on himself. This is why even after the Torah commands everyone to bring half a shekel, it repeats that even a rich man not should not give more than this.When a rich man gives a big check to charity, sometimes it does not leave room for the poor people to donate, and sometimes his motive is to see his name on a plaque.By recognizing that even he is just one number out of the sum total, he will learn to focus on others as much as on himself.
There are many reasons it is difficult to feel contentment. Focusing on the cup being half empty definitely makes it difficult to attain happiness. Focusing on the cup as half full also might not work if one compares himself to others whose cups are seemingly full. However, by changing focus from the ‘cup’ to helping others and giving, one can look at the cup and say, ‘whatever is in there, that’s obviously all I need. If I need more, G-d can always give me a refill.’
Getting Down To The Basics
These are methods of removing obstacles to happiness. In gaining happiness there is a lot more to be written; however, it is important to remember the following story about the Brisker Rav:
A man once pointed out to the Brisker Rav how happy young children are as they play in the park, jumping and running. “Do you know why they’re so happy?” asked the man. “It’s because they have nothing to worry about.But when they grow up, they’ll see what ‘real life’ is like.”
The Rav disagreed. He said, “The real truth is that G-d created humans as happy beings. However, as they grow older they develop bad habits and traits that ruin the natural happiness of their human hearts!”