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Help Yourself!

Friday, 8 March, 2013 - 2:00 pm

Rabbi Yosef Y. Schneersohn once was asked by his father, the fifth Lubavitcher Rebbe, to travel someplace in order to assist a businessman in need.

Upon returning he declared to his father, “I have fulfilled your request. I helped this fellow in the best way possible.”

“You are mistaken,” his father replied. “You did not help the businessman. You helped yourself. The Almighty helped the businessman and you merited to serve as His messenger.”


In the double parsha of Vayakhel-Pekudei , we read about the contributions to the Mishkan (Tabernacle). The Jewish people were very generous and donated more than sufficient materials for its construction. In fact, Moshe commanded them to stop. It was too much:

The people are bringing very much, more than is enough for the labor of the articles which the Lord had commanded to do. So Moshe commanded, and they announced in the camp, saying: "Let no man or woman do any more work for the offering for the Holy." So the people stopped bringing.

Certainly, the Children of Israel were excited to participate. Even if the materials were unnecessary, why quell the enthusiasm? Could they not give every person the pleasure of donating and divert the funds for another holy purpose?


Perhaps the greater lesson that Moshe wanted to teach the people was the true nature of their gifts. No one should consider herself as the key to the constructing the Mishkan. Even if we do achieve it – it’s only because G-d has allowed us to participate in His holy work.

We often feel good about donating, volunteering and getting things done – be it on the home front, in the community or at work. But the danger in all the good we do is thinking that I have helped him.

The Torah is not discounting our sense of accomplishment. We ought to feel good. But the Torah is telling us to shift our feelings.  Don’t feel good about what you’ve done. That would have happened anyway. Feel good about being a piece in G-d’s puzzle.

Now, that’s something to feel good about.

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