Friday, 12 February, 2016 - 10:22 am

When offering my son a special treat for his academic accomplishments, I gave him a choice of flavors.  “Whatever,” was his response.  But when I later delivered the apple flavor, he insisted he wanted grape. I reminded him that he was given a choice but that now it was too late. “If you really wanted grape, why did you say, ‘Whatever?’”


When G-d instructs the Jewish people to build Him a Sanctuary He says, “Speak to the children of Israel, and have them take for Me a donation; from every person whose heart inspires him to generosity, you shall take My donation.”

This week’s parsha, Teruma, describes the many details of the Mishkan.  The Jewish people were very generous and offered more than what was necessary for this Divine abode. There was a finite amount of wood, gold, silver and other materials necessary to construct the Mishkan. So why did G-d leave it open-ended? Why didn’t He say, “Donate 500 pounds of gold,” or something similar?

And, why does the Torah repeat itself, first demanding all to donate and then specifying that a collection be made “every person whose heart inspires him to generosity?”

The Chassidic Masters offer a different perspective on the Mishkan instruction. G-d isn’t only demanding that the Jewish people build a Mishkan in the wilderness. He is asking each of us to become a Sanctuary for G-d. By doing more mitzvot and becoming more holy, we create a Sanctuary for G-d, a miniature Mishkan.

Inner change and behavioral improvement require inspiration. Sometimes that inspiration is there and sometimes it seems absent. And, then there are times that it comes out of nowhere. Inexplicably, we suddenly feel motivated. Where does this burst of stimulus come from?

The mystics describe this as it’aruta di’l’ayla – and arousal from Above. It’s G-d reaching out. Essentially, it’s the spiritual equivalent of a freebie.  G-d expects us to use this empowerment and not squander it.

But capitalizing on His momentum isn’t enough. Hashem also desires our own effort, pulling ourselves up from our own bootstraps.  In fact, this is where He really wants to dwell – in the home that we build for Him on our own accord.

G-d gives us a boost, but then takes a step back.  He is like the mother who holds her young daughter’s hand and eventually let’s go.

Now we can understand the double language. G-d first tells the Jewish people, ‘I will empower you to donate.’ After all, being asked by G-d Himself for a specific contribution is motivation enough!

But, then G-d leaves it up to us: “from every person whose heart inspires him to generosity, you shall take My donation.”

G-d gets us started, but we need to find our own inspiration to take it to the next level!

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