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Generous Heart

Vayakhel (Exodus 35:1-38:20 )

by Rabbi Jared Viders

"Take from yourselves a portion for Hashem, everyone who is generous of heart (nideiv libo) shall bring it, as the gift for Hashem: gold, and silver, and copper..." (Ex. 35:5)

"Every man whose heart inspired him came; and everyone whose spirit moved him (nidavah rucho) brought the portion of Hashem for the work of the Tent of Meeting ..." (Ex. 35:21)

"The men came along with the women; everyone who is generous of heart (nadiv leiv)... (Ex. 35:22)

As these verses make patently clear, the construction of the Mishkan - from the initial assembly of the essential raw materials through the execution of the intricate handiwork and elaborate craftsmanship - was accompanied with a surge of generosity and benevolence on the part of the Jewish people. Not just lavish donations from wealthy benefactors, but serious investments of time, craftsmanship, sweat-equity and manpower.

Lest one (mistakenly) conclude that generosity is the unique lot of those wealthy enough to liberally distribute funds to those in need, the classic mussar work Orchas Tzaddikim identifies a host of other opportunities wherein we can cultivate and express the nedivas ha'leiv, the generous of heart, that lies dormant within in every Jew.

"One should be generous with his physical body to exert himself on behalf of others, to bear their burdens, to be distressed over their hardships and to pray for them..."

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The Orchas Tzaddikim says that a nedeiv leiv "will aspire to rejoice in other's simchas."

A Winter Storm Quinn blanketed Rockland County with up to 26 inches of snow and rendered the streets virtually impassable. On account of the severe winter conditions Hotzoloh issued the following warning: "Roads are extremely treacherous, avoid any travel unless absolutely necessary." Needless to say, the turn-out for the Rosenblum-Salgo wedding slated for that very night seemed very much in jeopardy. Until ... an e-mail blast went out as follows:

Chaveirim [a chesed organization in Monsey] is available to help people get to and from the Atrium [wedding hall] this evening. They are allowed to be on the roads even if there is a state of emergency declared. They said they will provide transportation to anyone that needs it. Call them a little while before you would like to be picked up." Four-wheel-drive nedivas ha'leiv with major traction indeed.

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And even more so, one must be a nadiv with one's Torah knowledge to teach knowledge to every Jew and to draw them closer to Heaven. This is the greatest nedivos of all the brands of nedivos, i.e. the generous one who endeavors to help his fellow Jew earn a spot in the World-to-Come.

A Rabbi in outreach once had an opportunity to deliver a class at the home of a very wealthy individual. Upon perceiving the palatial home, he paused and imagined what it must be like to be in a position to bestow so much charity and facilitate so much goodness to so many people enduring so many hardships. Wait a second, he thought, "I am going to teach these people Torah! I have the opportunity to bring them closer to God, to inspire them in their observance, to deepen their appreciation for prayer or infuse their Judaism with streaks of profundity, meaningfulness and joy. So who is the truly rich one in this equation?" So long as one has True Torah wisdom to share and sincere students interested in learning more, your "bank accounts" are packed with (non-monetary) largesse to bestow.

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From a Torah standpoint, the esteemed title of a "generous soul" does not presuppose vast accumulations of wealth, a large endowment ear-marked for charitable gifts or even 501(c)(3) status. To the contrary, opportunities to achieve true generosity abound. When we anticipate (and fulfill) others' needs (even before they articulate them). When we listen (intently) to an elderly person's re-telling of a story you've heard a dozen times. When we emulate our ancestors who identified their particular strengths and abilities (be it metal-work or weaving) and harnessed them for the honor of God we will find the sweet satisfaction of generosity and the immense contentment associated with utilizing your specific greatness and ear-marking that greatness for the greater good of the Am Yisrael - one soul at a time.

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