Thursday, March 11, 2021

don't just give -- collect

Just because I had the Oznayim laTorah open and I know everybody loves hearing a story with R' Chaim, here's another piece about an episode R' Sorotzkin says that he remembered from when he was learning in Volozhin.  This comes up because he is bothered by the second pasuk in the parsha קְח֨וּ מֵֽאִתְּכֶ֤ם תְּרוּמָה֙.  Everyone is there -- remember,  וַיַּקְהֵ֣ל מֹשֶׁ֗ה אֶֽת־כׇּל־עֲדַ֛ת בְּנֵ֥י יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל, Moshe is speaking to the ENTIRE Jewish people -- so who exactly are they being told to collect from?  If every single person is collecting, who are the givers?  

The yeshiva in Volozhin was short cash and deep in debt, so R' Chaim Brisker went to Minsk to meet with some heavy hitters to try to raise the necessary funds.  R' Chaim was put up in in the home of one of the wealthy askanim who offered to go out and raise the funds while R' Chaim sat and learned.  After a week or two R' Chaim asked what the story was, and this person said not to worry, he had half the money raised.  R' Chaim went back to learning.  A month went by, and again, R' Chaim approached his host and asked what's going on, and this time he was told that the entire sum had been raised.  R' Chaim was overjoyed, and he returned home.  

Some time later a din Torah was brought to the Rabbonim in Volozhin by the gvirim in Minsk against R' Chaim's host.  Apparently his host had donated the entire sum the yeshiva needed from his own pocket, and the other wealthy people were upset that they were deprived of the opportunity to bail out the great Volozhiner yeshiva (if only every din Torah was like this one... right?)  When R' Chaim heard the issue, he went back to his former host and told him he was confused.  "If you were going to donate the entire sum out of your pocket," he asked, "Why did you keep me sitting in your house for a month?"  To which R' Chaim's host answered, "Do you think giving that kind of big donation is easy!?  First I worked on myself and talked myself into giving half of what was needed.  Then I worked on myself some more, and after a month I talked myself into writing a check for the whole amount."  

R' Sorotzkin writes that this is קְח֨וּ מֵֽאִתְּכֶ֤ם -- you have to work on taking the $ from yourself, on collecting, not just give the first amount that pops into your head.  When it came to the mishkan it was "ish k'terumas yado," whatever every individual chose to donate, no outside coercion.  But that doesn't mean a person could not coerce himself/herself to take a little more out of his/her pocket than he/she ordinarily would do.  

Don't just be be a giver -- be a collector and twist your own arm.  


  1. "twist your own arm"

    Hashem called that a 'selfie', back in the day...

  2. shkoiach. you write no outside coercion but isn't this Baal Haturim masham it was midinei tzedkah and mimashkinin al hatzedaka? תקחו את תרומתי. ולא אמר תקח שאין גובין צדקה בפחות מב'. תקחו. בגימ' שנים קחו