Naso (Numbers 4:21-7:89 )
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GOOD MORNING! Can one test the Almighty? Part of what I do in life is fundraising. One time I met with one of our supporters, a personal injury attorney, for lunch. At the end of the meal I asked him if he would please renew his support of $2,000 again this year. He told me that he could give $500, but was unable to give what he gave the previous year because of a whole list of reasons (which he itemized for me in great detail).
I graciously thanked him for his continued support and then asked him, "What would it take for you to be able to give the other $1500 to continue our level of support from last year?" He thought for a moment and then said, "I'd need to make $400,000 this year." And I said, "Great! We have a deal!" I then asked him, "By the way, what did you make last year?" He replied, "Under $200,000."
A ridiculous deal? Maybe. But when you are a fundraiser, you quickly learn to trust in God. Anything can happen. One sees miracles when he fundraises for a cause! My attitude is also colored by an old Jewish tale of a king whose best friend embezzled money from the treasury. The king was loathe to commit his old friend to death, though he knew that he had an obligation to the laws of the kingdom and respect for the law to do it. In order to delay the inevitable, the king decreed that his friend had one year to teach the king's horse to sing ... and if he failed, then and only then would he be put to death.
The embezzler was thrilled. The guard asked him, "Why are you so happy? Didn't you hear? You're condemned to death!" The embezzler replied, "What are you talking about? Many things can happen in a year - the horse could die, the king could die, I could die. And who knows, I might even succeed to teach the horse to sing!" Such is the attitude of a fundraiser - trust in God and anything can happen!
During the year I made every effort to keep in contact with the donor. I called. I sent information and interesting books. He didn't take one call. He never responded to anything I sent. At the end of the year I wrote to enquire how his year was and the status of our deal. No answer to my letter. I figured that there was probably a good reason and perhaps eventually I'd find out.
March 15th of the next year his secretary called me requesting a lunch meeting with me for her boss on the 16th or the 17th. I figured he must have a personal problem and he needs my help. Why else would he want to meet with me after ignoring me for a year?
On March 17th we had an enjoyable lunch together with lots of "small talk." Towards the end of lunch he asks, "Do you remember our deal?" "Yes," I replied. "Well, I didn't make $400,000," he continued, "I made over $500,000 (later he told me that he made $750,000!). And I asked myself, 'Was this a coincidence or was it because of my deal with the rabbi?' I decided that I wasn't going to pay you so quickly to see what would happen.
It was the worse financial quarter of any year since I graduated from law school. So, I decided I would fulfill my word and pay my obligation. And I want you to know, rabbi, that since I made that decision my phone has been ringing off the hook and I have more business than I can handle." He then handed me the check.
I graciously accepted the check, extended my hand to shake his hand and thanked him for his company, for lunch and for his generous contribution. He said, "Well, I guess that's about it." I responded, "There's still one more question." He asked, "What? Will I do the deal again next year?" "No," I replied, "the question is ... 'How much money do you want to make next year?' " (And we made another deal!)
The Torah tells us that we are not to test God ("Do not test the Lord your God" - Deuteronomy 6:16) ... except in one thing - tzedakah (charity). The Torah states, "Tithe, you shall certainly tithe." The Talmud (Ta'anis 8b-9a) asks the meaning of the double expression ("ahsair t'ahsair").
Rabbi Yochanan teaches that there is a homiletic lesson based on a play of words (in the Hebrew): 'Tithe so that you will become wealthy!' Rabbi Yochanan then brought support from the prophet Malachi (3:10): "Bring all the tithes to the storehouse, so that there may be food in My House (for those who serve in the Holy Temple), and you may test Me now through this, says the Almighty, the Master of Legions, if I will not open for you windows of the sky, and pour blessings for you without limit."
Thus we see that one may test the Almighty - in one area only, that of tzedakah (charity). And not only that, but we see that the reward for testing in this area is that the Almighty will pour out upon you blessings without limit for what you give!
Torah Portion of the Week
This week's portion includes further job instructions to the Levites, Moshe is instructed to purify the camp in preparation for the dedication of the Mishkan, the Portable Sanctuary.
Then four laws relating to the Cohanim are given:
- Restitution for stolen property where the owner is deceased and has no next of kin - goes to the Cohanim.
- If a man suspects his wife of being unfaithful, he brings her to the Cohanim for the Sotah clarification ceremony.
- If a person chooses to withdraw from the material world and consecrate himself exclusively to the service of the Almighty by becoming a Nazir (vowing not to drink wine or eat grape products, come in contact with dead bodies or cut his hair), he must come to the Cohen at the completion of the vow.
- The Cohanim were instructed to bless the people with this blessing:
"May the Lord bless you and keep you. May the Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious unto you. May the Lord lift up His Countenance upon you and give you peace."
The Mishkan is erected and dedicated on the first of Nissan in the second year after the Exodus. The leaders of each tribe jointly give wagons and oxen to transport the Mishkan. During each of the twelve days of dedication, successively each tribal prince gives gifts of gold and silver vessels, sacrificial animals and meal offerings. Every prince gives exactly the same gifts as every other prince.
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
During the twelve days of the dedication of the Tabernacle, the heads of the twelve tribes each brought an offering. Although the offerings of the leaders were the same, the Torah repeats each gift with all of its details. The Torah never uses an extra word or letter unless it is coming to teach us a lesson about life. What lesson can we learn here?
The Ralbag, a 14th century French Biblical commentator, informs us that the lesson for us to learn is that we should not try to out-do another person in order to boast or feel superior to him. We should keep our focus on the accomplishment, not on our egos.
The goal in spiritual matters is to serve the Almighty, to grow as a person and not to seek honor or to compete with anyone else. Competition has its motivating factor, but one-upmanship has no place in fulfilling Torah principles.
To learn more about tzedakah (charity), I highly recommend The Tzedakah Treasury by Rabbi Avrohom Chaim Feuer, available at your local Jewish bookstore, at judaicaenterprises.com or by calling toll-free to 877-758-3242.
CANDLE LIGHTING - May 28:
(or Go to http://www.aish.com/candlelighting)
Guatemala 6:07 Hong Kong 6:43 Honolulu 6:48
J'Burg 5:06 London 8:44 Los Angeles 7:39
Melbourne 4:50 Miami 7:47 Moscow 8:38
New York 7:59 Singapore 6:50
QUOTE OF THE WEEK:
You can't take it with you ...
but you can send it ahead!
Mazal Tov on