The Pleasure of Giving
Vayakhel-Pekudei (Exodus 35-40 )
It's easy to get the wrong idea about giving. While it may seem like the giver is helping out the receiver, it's really the other way around. Giving is one of the main reasons we are in the world, and one of the best feelings a person can have is when he is gives. In our portion this week we learn about all of the gifts the people made to build the Tabernacle, and how some of the leaders of the tribes almost lost the opportunity to give by waiting too long. Let's not wait to tap into the pleasure of giving.
In our story, a boy discovers that giving is really getting.
"THE GIFT THAT KEEPS ON GIVING"
Seth and his friend Jonathan were having a good time shooting hoops one day in Seth's backyard when an ambulance drove by.
"What's that doing around here? Did somebody get into an accident or something?" Jonathan asked, concerned.
Seth tossed the basketball he had been dribbling up at the backboard, and shook his head. "I don't think so. It's going around pretty slowly. Wait, it's making some kind of announcement over the loudspeaker. Hold the ball a second, let's listen."
The boys craned their ears to hear. "THE SEMI-ANNUAL BLOOD DRIVE WILL TAKE PLACE THIS AFTERNOON AT COMMUNITY HOSPITAL. DONATE BLOOD AND GIVE THE GIFT OF LIFE...THE SEMI-ANNUAL..."
"Hey, remember?" Jonathan said with an excited look. "We got the notice in school last week about the blood drive. C'mon, let's go." Jonathan put down the basketball and practically ran to get his jacket that he had slung over the fence.
"Whoa, wait a minute," Seth said. "What's the rush? We're in the middle of a game!"
But Jonathan was unstoppable. "It's a big opportunity and I don't want to miss it. Our Hebrew studies teacher taught us that the Torah says that if a person saves one life, it's as if he saved the whole world. Just think of how many 'worlds' we can save now by donating blood!"
But Seth didn't budge and Jonathan was surprised to see that his enthusiasm wasn't contagious. "Didn't your parents sign the consent form they gave out in school?" he asked.
Seth gave a nonchalant shrug as he bounced the ball. "Sure they signed. I have the form right in my pocket. But what's the hurry? After all, it's not like they're giving something away over there. We're the ones doing them a favor by donating blood. You can run off if you want, but I'm taking my time. I'm sure they'll be happy to see me whenever I get there."
The two boys went their separate ways, and after Seth finished playing a little while longer and listening to a couple of CD's, he finally decided to head over to the hospital to donate blood, certain he'd find only a small line of givers, if any at all.
But when he got there he got a big surprise. The whole lobby was packed with men, women and kids. "What's going on here?" he thought to himself. Maybe he had heard wrong, and they were really paying for the blood or giving out big prizes. Why else would so many people have showed?
But after checking it out with a couple of people in line, he was amazed to discover, that like Jonathan, they were all just waiting for a chance to help save lives. As he stood at the back of the line Seth thought about what Jonathan had said. Maybe he was right. It did feel good to be able to give, especially something as important as this. He looked at his watch. It was getting late, and he hoped he'd still get the chance.
Finally as Seth neared the front of the line, an announcement came over the hospital intercom. "We would like to thank you all for coming. Thanks to you, the blood drive has been a big success, and the blood bank is full and we won't need anymore donations this time around. Thanks again, and hope we'll see you next year."
The nurses at the donation booths began packing up, and the few people left in line began to head out. Seth ran up to the one of the nurses and practically begged her to let him give blood. But the woman just smiled politely, thanked him, and put away her equipment. Seth couldn't believe it.
He ran to another nurse, and fortunately she had room for one more donation. Although he was the one doing the giving, he felt like he had just won the lottery. Seth promised himself that next year he would be first on line. He had thought that by giving he was doing others a favor, now he realized that really they were doing him a favor by letting him have an opportunity to give.
Q. How did Seth feel at first when he heard about the chance to give?
A. He felt that since he was doing a favor by giving, he didn't feel like he had to hurry.
Q. How did he feel in the end?
A. He felt the happiness of giving, and as though he was actually getting something by being allowed to give.
Q. Why does it feel good to give?
A. A person naturally feels good when he is able to live up to his highest values. Giving, being one of the most worthwhile values there is, provides one of life's deepest pleasures because we are able to act like God who is the ultimate giver.
Q. Since Seth intended to give in the end, what was wrong with his just putting it off a little bit while he had some fun first playing?
A. When we consider doing something valuable, we should want to do it right away. While there was nothing wrong with Seth wanting to have fun, his willingness to put off giving showed that he really didn't appreciate its true value.
Ages 10 and Up
Q. Even when we know it's right, why is it often such a struggle to be a giving person?
A. The choice of whether to be a 'giver' or a 'taker' is one of the most intense and constant arenas of struggle in a person's life. How much of a genuine giver one truly is, is one of the main indicators of one's spiritual level. It is natural to feel the struggle, since the less spiritual part of ourselves will always try to stop us from giving. But the main thing is to keep trying, and eventually we will succeed.
Q. Can there be such a thing as being 'too' giving?
A. While generally giving is positive, we have to make sure to keep in mind the big picture, including our own legitimate needs. For instance, while giving blood is a good thing-to give away ALL of our blood wouldn't be. Any giving that would make us compromise our genuine values, or basic needs may very well be inappropriate. The rule of thumb is: give whenever we can, but only if we really can.