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Last week I was away on a business trip, traveling to the Bahamas to dedicate a local mikvah. No one invited me, of course, but given that it was a "business trip", it is tax deductible. Well, after my Bashert went to the mikvah, we got back to our hotel room and dedicated the mikvah. Twice.
Which brings us to this week's Parsha, Parshas Teruma. Teruma of course refers to the contributions made in the midbar by Klal Yisroel, the Jewish People, in setting up the Mishkan. The ARI ZAHL asks an obvious question: why was Am Yisroel, while traveling in the desert for forty years, probably not having showered, so privileged as to be able to donate the materials for the Mishkan, while we, in our day, don't have a similar opportunity?
The ARI ZAHL offers a beautiful answer. In a time of spiritual unification between the Rebboinoisheloilum and His bride Klal Yisroel, the Jewish People express our closeness to the Aimishteh by funding spiritual endeavors. But in a time when Klal Yisroel is separated from Hakkadoshboruchhu, trapped within the realm of the mundane as scattered sparks, we can only aspire to emulate this divine behavior by cheating on our taxes.
Well, I would like to suggest that in our generation, we are again in a state of closeness to the Rebboinoisheloilum. In fact, you sitting out there, reading this in shul instead of peaking into the Ezras Nashim, are blessed with a gevaldik opportunity to cling to the Aimishteh. Like Klal Yisroel in the midbar, you too have the chance to give tzedakah, and cling to Hakkadoshboruchhu through performing a big mitzvah.
Minuval, how much money do you waste every week on Narishkeit? Movies, cable television, Playstation 7, gym membership, mortgage, rent, 401K, income taxes, bread, health insurance, cholesterol medication, anti-depressants, birth control (Rachmana Litzlan). You should be spending your money on real items that will make the world a better place and reserving your spot in Olam Haba, the afterlife. And at the same time, you can provide me... err… rabbinic scholars an appropriate standard of living.
You read this commentary every week. Did it ever occur to you that I don't do this for my health? No, I do this to help your Neshama, you ungrateful Vilda Chaya! And now, just as the Jewish People did in the desert, you have to pay.
I want you to take out your check book right now and start making out a check to "Yeshivah Chipass Emmess/ NPOJ International -- Tuition".. (Incidentally, we do accept credit cards with a nominal 52% surcharge.)
"And why should I?" you are asking, you good-for-nothing? I'll tell you. When you contribute to NPOJ International, you help to preserve the Jewish People:
-- Our yeshiva and movement are critical in the struggle against assimilation. And of course, our philosophy embraces modernity and the integration of modern cultural ideas.
-- We are against the peace process in Eretz Yisroel, but are also in favor of a just and lasting resolution to the Arab-Israeli conflict.
-- Your contribution helps to fight anti-semitism. We are also resoundly against Jewish xenophobia, and also oppose the Jewish cabal bent on dominating the media and implementing world government.
In other words, whatever it is, we're against it. Unless you're in favor of it, in which case we're in favor of it too. Just so long as you write us a check. Make that checks. Because in Parshas Teruma we read of a multi-level contribution structure that is echoed and commemorated in our own fundraising model.
The Reboinoisheloilum commanded the Jewish People to contribute gold for the Mishkan. This is equal in our day to the Yeshiva tuition that you must pay. He also commanded them to donate:
-- Silver, which is equal to the building fund
-- Brass, which is equal to the family obligation
-- Techayless, which is equal to the journal ad
-- Argaman, which is equal to the dinner
-- Toalas Shani, which is equal to the Rabbi's discretionary fund.
Additional commandments are equivalent in our day to the Passover candy drive, the book fair, and, of course, scrip. So this week, as you read this, don't read my name as "Schmeckelstein" but as "Shekel-stein".
A Beraisah in Sanhedrin brings down a debate among the chachomim on how much money one should contribute. Rav Yehudah Hanassi said you should give until it hurts; Rabbi Yoichanan said you should give beyond it hurting, until it begins to feel good. But the Chachomim held that you should give until you cannot afford groceries and have to appear before the scholarship committee.
While LeChatchilah we hold like the Chachomim, BeDeeyeved you don't have to go so far. Just so long as you donate enough so that next month my Bashert and I can go and dedicate a new mikvah in Hawaii.
Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein
Yeshivas Chipass Emmess