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  • Rabbi Mordechai Lipskier

This is backwards

A major baal tzedaka I know, always includes a note with his donation: “Thank you for the zechus.” His sentiment may be the key to understanding a word in this week’s parsha. In Hashem’s command to give machatzis hashekel, the Torah says “venosnu,” and they shall give. The Baal HaTurim notes that this word can be read forwards or backwards: ונתנו. The message is that whatever we give to tzedaka is not lost, Hashem assures that it will be given back to us. There’s no question that this reassurance helps us give generously. Yet there are many people who seem to have a different twist on the word venosnu. The Rebbe Rashab once sent his son, who’d eventually become the Rebbe Rayatz, to do a favor for a certain businessman. When he returned, he told his father, “I did the Yid the favor as you instructed.” His father countered: You did yourself a favor. Hashem determined that this man should receive help, and He has many messengers capable of delivering it. You did a favor to yourself in becoming Hashem’s messenger.[1]

Over the years, and once again this past week, during my wife’s fundraiser for the Crown Heights Women’s Circle, I’ve encountered Yidden who see the act of helping another Yid as their zechus. They don’t view themselves as the giver but as the receiver of an opportunity. They seem to perceive the dual direction of the word venosnu to mean, “It may look like I’m giving, but I’m actually receiving.” Yidden have invented a wondrous game of mitzvah ping-pong: The recipient appreciates the giver’s efforts and generosity—after all, it was of free-will that they became Hashem’s messenger—and they shower the giver with brachos and praise. The giver, in turn, passes it right back saying, “Thank you for giving me the zechus.” Mi k’amcho Yisroel?! May we be bentched with lots to give, and may we merit to contribute machatzis hashekel toward the korbanos in the third Beis HaMikdash very soon. Gut Shabbos, Rabbi Mordechai Lipskier [1] Igros Kodesh of the Rebbe Rayatz, vol. 4 pg. 46.


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