“The Lord spoke to Moses saying: “Speak to the children of Israel and have them take for Me an offering; from every person whose heart inspires him to generosity, you shall take My offering (Exodus 25:1-2).
The time had come for the Jewish nation to build a “home” for God. The Mishkan (Tabernacle) was to be the spiritual epicenter of the nation’s existence. It was to be the place of centralized service and would serve to unite the tribes in the service of God. But this Mishkan was not only for us. God’s love for his children was so intense that He yearned to dwell within our midst and be an active part of our daily lives. But like most important life endeavors – a dream is not enough – reality requires money. And so, when it came time to make this dream a reality, the call went out to the Jewish people to donate gold, silver, copper, wool, and an assortment of other precious metals and materials. All were to have a portion in the Mishkan; all were to have a place within the Home of Hashem. From the wording of the verse, it would appear that giving to this holy endeavor was at the discretion of the individual. God told Moshe to collect from “every person whose heart inspires him to generosity.” Collect from every person who possesses this “Nidivus Leyv, generosity of spirit.” The inference is that if a person “feels” generous, they give, and if they do not feel generous, they are exempt. This seems to be a strange dynamic given the fact that mitzvos (commandments) are obligatory and are not left to the discretion of the individual. We have 613 commandments which represent a set of Divine mandates to which we must adhere. Why was donating to the Mishkan left to the discretion of the individual?
Rav Chaim Shmulevitz (1902-1979) explains this dynamic with a beautiful insight. The Talmud (Kesubos 103a) quotes an amazing episode:
“Rabbi Chiya said: I will make sure that Torah is never forgotten from the Jewish people. I will sow flax, harvest it, and make it into nets. I will use the nets to capture deer. I will slaughter the deer, feed the meat to orphans, and write the sections of the Torah on the parchment (skins). I will then go to a place where there are no teachers of Torah, and I will assemble a group of children and teach each of them a section of Torah. I will then ask each of them to teach the material to one another.”
Why did Rabbi Chiya have to go through the trouble of making the nets and capturing the deer? Why not just purchase the parchment and write the Torah on it? Or better yet, purchase already written scrolls? Rabbi Chiya understood a very important and fundamental principle. To be successful in any spiritual life endeavor, we must do it “lishmah, with true and worthy purpose and intention.” Rabbi Chiya knew that in order to impart Torah to the next generation, every step of the spiritual, educational process would have to be pure and holy. From beginning to end, it would have to be done for the right reasons. Any ego or self-serving motivations would erode the spiritual foundation. In order to ensure that the transmission of Torah to the next generation would be pristine and pure, Rabbi Chiya made sure that each and every part of the process was infused with holiness and meaning.
Nidivus Leyv does not simply refer to someone who is generous; it refers to someone who does the right thing for the right reasons – someone who lives his life lishmah. Hashem was saying to Moshe, “I want everyone to give, but I want them to understand that the success of this project is rooted in their ability to infuse holiness into every step of this process. To give without soul, to give without feeling does not advance our collective goal. I trust that each and every person will ultimately come around and want to be part of this holy initiative, but don’t force them to give if they are not yet ready.”
God is teaching us a profound life lesson. We often assume the success of any life endeavor is rooted in the performance of a series of mechanistic details. If we execute the details correctly, we will reach our desired result. True success in life requires heart, feeling, and soul. There are times when we do not reach our intended finish line. There are times when we fall short of our goals. At times, this is the result of unexpected circumstances. Yet often this occurs because we were not emotionally and spiritually vested in the undertaking. At times, the body can be engaged, and yet the soul and the mind are elsewhere. To be truly successful in life, a person must commit to the “task” with not only his hands and feet – but with his heart and his soul. Nidivus Leyv, generosity of spirit, is not only a way to give; it is a way to live.
Let us find the strength to give generously of our heart, soul, and mind to all we do, and may Hashem bless our efforts with success.