March 10th, 2000
4 Adar II, 5760
In my relatively brief experience as a parent, I have found that there is no limit to what
I want to give to my children. Not because I want them to stop crying and
complaining-though, I admit, that can seem to be a pretty compelling reason when the
decibel level breaks 100 or so. Rather, it's because there is such joy in
seeing their happiness and joy, such radiance in their smiles. (I remember how much
I made fun of one of the sappy popular songs of my youth, "You Light Up My
Life;" now, I unabashedly want to sing it to my kids every day!)
But even I, world-class softie, realize that I can't give to them whatever and whenever I
would like. It would "spoil" them, which I take to mean (at least, in
part): creating in them an attitude of entitlement, increasing their egocentricity and
pride (the bad kind)-what is termed, gahveh, in Hebrew-as opposed to nurturing their sense
of gratitude. Hence, it was Grandma and Grandpa that bought my kids giant, talking Buzz
Lightyear dolls.and not my (high-minded) wife and I, who thought smaller silent models
In any case, my basic point is that while I'm always willing to give, they are not always
"ready" (mature enough) to receive.
I think we can apply the same basic paradigm of
Giving/Receiving to G-d in His relationship with mankind. He always wants to
give us blessings, but we may not always be properly prepared to make good use of them.
Actually, never mind what I think; great Torah thinkers have written to this effect, and
S'fas Emes-the magnificent commentary on the Chumash that I have been quoting of
late-makes the very same point in one of his comments on this week's parsha.
He starts from a Midrash (in Shemos Rabbah) based on the opening verse in the
parsha. The first part of Pekudei is devoted to listing the amounts of all the
materials that the Jewish people donated for the construction of the Mishkan (Tabernacle);
Moshe himself had ordered this reckoning (the word, Pekudei, means
"reckonings"), thereby "setting a precedent for future administrators of
public money, who should make public their integrity and honesty, even if the public
trusts them." (Rabbi Eli Munk, Call of the Torah: II. P. 531) The Midrash
cites a verse from Proverbs--"A faithful man will abound with blessings, but he that
is impatient to be rich shall not be unpunished."--and declares Moshe to be an
outstanding example of such a "faithful" man.
"You will find that G-d always brings blessings by
the hand of a man who is faithful.everything over which Moses was appointed custodian was
blessed on account of his faithfulness." (Shemos Rabbah: 51, 1; Soncino
On a simple level, Moshe was "faithful" in
carrying out his public responsibilities vis a vis man and G-d; thus, he was blessed with
the privilege of marshaling (on G-d's behalf) an enormous amount of material lovingly
donated by his people for the building of the Mishkan (and scrupulously accounted for in
On a deeper level, the S'fas Emes explains that only a "faithful" person can
safely receive the many blessings G-d always wants to give; he won't come to forget G-d
(the Bestower) in the enjoyment of those blessings. A "faithless" person,
on the other hand, will forget G-d-and let's be honest, with all the physical pleasures
you can afford if you win, say, 50 million in the lottery, or on the stock market, it will
be a mighty big challenge NOT to forget Him.
Therefore, the blessings in such a case will not be
good for the person; rather, they actually lead him to sin.
The S'fas Emes writes that the Children of Israel
(those loyal to the name, anyway)
"..cling in faith [to G-d], and by means of
receving [G-d's blessings], they humble themselves even more, and connect themselves to
the Source (shoresh) of the beneficence. Therefore, they are able to receive
This is the true meaning of a faithful man: one who
"is drawn after the Source, and does not fall underneath the heel of arrogance
[despite receiving blessings]." Such a person-or people-WILL receive those
Since it is on Shabbos, the S'fas Emes concludes, that the whole Creation is drawn
after its Source (the very name, Shabbos, coming from the Hebrew root that means, "to
return"), this day is the ultimate vessel for blessing. "And He blessed
the seventh day." Returning to the source on Shabbos-ceasing from our
usual creative activity, and transcending our myopic workaday perspective on life-paves
the way for its unique blessing.
May we all return to our true spiritual Source this Shabbos-and every other--, and
enjoy true blessing that will extend to, and elevate, the coming week as well.
G-d is certainly eager to give it.just so long as we're ready to receive.
Insights Into Genesis
Insights Into Exodus
Edelstein is Director
of the the Savannah Kollel and the
Savannah Torah Education Project (STEP).
fax: 912-354-9923; e-mail: Yosef18@aol.com
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