Weekly Thought: How Much Must We Give?

How significant does a donation need to be in order to count / matter? What role do the very small donations play in the big scheme of things? Who really benefits from the donation? Rabbi Avrohom Brashevitzky, Shliach to Doral, FL, shares his thoughts on this week’s Parsha – Terumah.

“Dabber El B’nei Yisrael V’yikchu Li Terumah Me’eis Kol Ish…” “Speak to the children of Israel, and have them take for Me an offering; from every person whose heart inspires him to generosity, you shall take My offering”

The offerings discussed in this week’s Parsha were intended for the purpose of constructing the Mishkan. Why would Hashem desire a donation from “every person”? It would seem that looking at the big picture – taking in to account the splendor and the vast amount of gold invested in this project – one can easily come to conclusion that the small donations from the less affluent Jews were most likely not even needed. It would seem that the little guy’s donation was insignificant compared to the vast amount needed. Yet, Hashem specifically states that He desires these contributions and that it’s being taken “for Him”.

The same question arises perhaps in our contemporary giving. When we receive a request for donation to a given institution, what should our attitude be? Perhaps the amount we are able to give is so small as to make any difference in the overall budget of that organization or even that particular campaign. In that case why bother giving anything? True “every penny adds up…” but still, they are only pennies in contrast to the larger sums the rich are able to give, which WILL certainly make a difference. So, to give (the small amount) or not to give?

In a Yud Shvat Farbrengen many years ago the Rebbe spoke about the concept of Maamad (monies the Chassiddim would give for The Rebbe on a regular basis as an expression of their Hiskashrus). He related that although The Frierdiker Rebbe was a rich man before he (officially) became Rebbe, to the extent that (as He himself related) his father The Rebbe Rashab “knew that the drawer was always open for Him – whenever He needed to He was able to go and take as much as he required”. Yet, after becoming Rebbe he was dependant on the support of Chassiddim. There were times that the financial situation in His home was very difficult.

The Rebbe explained this as the means of connecting the Chosid with The Rebbe. Although The Rabbeim could have certainly found other means, yet they preferred to depend on the Chassidim, as “the king needs his nation to be king”. Similar to the idea of Hashem’s saying to us: “say for me Malchiyut in order to make me king on you”. The Rebbe shared a related story about the Rebbe Maharash. As it’s well known, the Rebbe Maharash was very rich and invested and traded on the stock market in Petersberg. Although He himself lived in Lubavitch, he constantly would direct his representatives in Petersburg via Telegrams which stocks to buy or sell.

(Certainly there was a deep reason for all this, as evident by the fact that once the rep made a trade on his own volition and The Rebbe refused to allow the profit to go into his pool of money stating the monies were not from His transaction.)

Yet, The Rebbe Maharsh said that the 50 Kopeks which a certain Chosid (a poor Melamed from Nevel who was barely able to give this small sum annually) is extremely dear and special to Him. Although it obviously played no role in the overall accounting of The Rebbe’s household!

A similar story which illustrates this point: Two Chassdim were once traveling and stopped in a road side inn / tavern to warm up. While sitting there they overheard a conversation between two drunken peasants. “Ivan, tell me why”. The Goy wanted to know why the czar’s tax collector even bothered going to his neighbor’s home to collect the taxes owed. Furthermore, after realizing that they weren’t evading paying their taxes, rather they had nothing to give, he still insisted on confiscating from whatever little belongings they still had. All their pleas fell on deaf ears. He entered with a few officers and proceeded to collect some old worn out bed sheet and pillows which have long ago shed their last feathers and a few miserable looking towels. “Why would the king even need this garbage? Certainly after leaving town they made sure to dispose of the miserable garbage they took, so why would they take it in the first place, for what purpose?”

“Tolik, you’re right! The king has absolutely no use for the garbage items of that poor family. He doesn’t need anything of theirs. However, THEY need this – they need to give to the king, even against their will. For otherwise, they may even forget one day that there is a king!”

The Chassidim quickly understood why B’hashgacha Protis they were given the opportunity to overhear the conversation. The very same concept applies in Avodas Hashem. Perhaps our small deed is truly insignificant compared to the great Tzadikkim and relative to Hashem’s greatness. However, it is we who need it and benefit from the opportunity to do something for Hashem!

The same is with Tzedakah. Perhaps when a Shliach or organization asks you for help, you may really not have the means to make a considerable impact. But give anyway. Give even a small amount. This will be your chance to be a partner in the totality of the good things the organization does; this will be your opportunity to be a partner with The Rebbe through His Shluchim.

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