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"To Give or Not to Give: That Is the Question"

03/11/2020 01:55:39 PM


Rabbi Reuben Israel Abraham, CDR, CHC, USN (ret)

In the 1930's Rav Elchonon Wasserman, Rosh Yeshivah of the Baronovich Yeshivah, was in the United States engaged in a fund-raising campaign for the yeshivah.  On the Erev Shabbat (Friday night) preceding the reading of Parashat Ki Tissa (this week's parashah), he made an appeal at a shul where he announced that for $80, one could have the merit of supporting his entire yeshivah for one week.  ($80 went much further in the 1930's than it does today.)  The members of the shul were very enthusiastic by his passionate speech with many seeming to be ready to "take the plunge" of pledging $80.  However, there was one man who was clearly not excited about the congregants "jumping onboard" Rav Elchonon's "bandwagon," and this man was the Rabbi of the shul.

 When Rav Elchonon finished his speech, the Rabbi rushed to the podium and began to drone on and on with the result being that the congregants' excitement about Rav Elchonon's speech quickly decreased.  The Rabbi effectively quashed Rav Elchonon's fundraising efforts by declaring: "If you give $1 to the Baronovich Yeshivah, that, too, is a significant donation."  And with that, Rav Elchonon received almost nothing in pledges.  Later that night, when visiting Rav Elchonon in his host's home, the Rabbi of the shul said this; "I know you are upset about what happened this evening.  You probably have complaints against me and my congregation."  To his shock, Rav Elchonon told the Rabbi fo the shul that he had no complaints whatsoever.

Ran Elchonon explained: "Take a look at this week's parsahahHaShem told Moshe that He chose Betzalel ben Uri ben Chur to build the Mishkan (Wilderness Tabernacle).  With literally millions of people in the Jewish encampment, Moshe had to go search for Betzalel.  If he went up to someone and asked him if he was Betzalel and received the answer 'No!', Moshe would simply conclude that the person he asked was not supposed to build the Mishkan.  You cannot be upset at a person for not being chosen to complete a specific task.  The same is true for me.  HaShem has designated people to support the Baronovich Yeshivah.  I came and spoke to your shul thinking that your people were those whom HaShem had selected.  Obviously I was wrong.  Someone else will have this merit in Olam Haba (the World-to-Come).  How can I have complaints against you for that?"

Think about this the next time you are approached to give money to some Jewish organization.  Think about this the next time you are approached to give money to Congregations of Shaare Shamayim.  HaShem has designated someone to fulfill the role of Betzalel for the person or organization trying to raise money.  Instead of refusing to pledge to give, ask yourself: "Am I that Betzalel?"

Fri, July 3 2020 11 Tammuz 5780