22 Feb SHABBOS IS IN THE AIR: THE HEART OF THE MATTER
“Rachmanah liba boyeh”
“The Merciful One desires the heart.”
(Talmud Sanhedrin 106b)
To do mitzvos with heart, with love and compassion. Rabbi Eliyahu Dessler zt”l explains that Torah is different from all other disciplines. Whereas other disciplines try to reach the intellect, Torah reaches the heart.
The word lev, heart is repeated multiple times in Parshas Vayakhel.
“…nediv libo – every one whose heart motivates him” (Shemos 35:5).
“…chacham lev – the wise-hearted, amongst you” (Shemos 35:10).
“…asher noss’o libo – every man whose heart inspired him” (Shemos 35:21)
Nediv lev, a giving heart. Rashi explains that giving emanates from the heart. A heart that is willing to give with empathy and understanding, with kindness and love.
Sometimes, it takes a young boy to lead the way, and teach us a lesson in giving.
Rabbi Paysach Krohn tells the story of Avi Faivish, a sensitive bar mitzvah boy.
Avi’s parents were planning a beautiful celebration to mark his bar mitzvah. Prior to the big day, Avi and his father had a discussion as to how he would allocate his ma’aser monies – one-tenth of his gifts to be distributed to tzedakah. Avi thought long and hard. He mentioned to his father that there were boys in his grade whose parents weren’t able to afford a nice bar mitzvah seudah. His wish was to set up a fund that would help these families cover the expenses.
His parents loved the concept. Together with his father, Avi presented the idea to his yeshiva principal, who was eager to help him establish the fund.
And so, The Bar Mitzvah Fund became a reality. The fund grew, with Avi’s friends, their parents, and many other community members contributing to it. The project spread to include other neighborhood schools. Over the years, hundreds of bar mitzvah boys from less financially-able families were able to have beautiful celebrations, all because of monies allocated discreetly, with honor and grace.
Rav Tzvi Hirsh Eichenstein, known as the Rebbe of Zidichov (1763 – 1831), made it a custom to help an orphan get married whenever he married off his own child or grandchild. He would spend the same amount of money on the orphan’s wedding as he did for his own.
Another heartfelt custom upon making one’s own simcha, is to arrange what is referred to as a seudas aniyim, a feast for the needy. Many prominent rabbinical and communal leaders arrange a parallel feast for the less fortunate on the same day as their own family wedding or other simcha. Some even go to the length of including as many participants as there are guests at their own celebration.
Young and old alike can be nedivei lev, givers with a kind, generous heart.
Chacham lev, a wise heart. We usually associate a heart with love, and the mind with wisdom. What is a “wise” heart?
Shlomo HaMelech asked HaShem to bless him with “an understanding heart, able to discern between good and bad.” (I Melochim 3:9) The Malbim expounds that Shlomo didn’t ask for wisdom to attain wealth, or to win wars against his enemies, but desired to have the insight to differentiate between right and wrong.
Wisdom is meaningless if not used properly. We can use knowledge to bring cure and healing, and make the world a better place, or it can be used to wreak havoc and destruction. It wasn’t so long ago that the world witnessed the pitfalls of knowledge not accompanied by a discerning heart. Nazi Germany plotted the “final solution” to annihilate the Jewish people, using its intellect and education to build gas chambers, commit atrocities, and perform horrible experiments on human beings. Instead of using it’s brainpower to improve the world, they brought calamity to the world.
In the Hebrew language, the word chochmah, המכח, wisdom can be divided into two words. Koach/ חכ, strength, and mah/המ, what. Mah – What we do with our koach, how we channel our strength, defines our wisdom, our chochmah.
What a lesson of contrasts we see from our holy Torah. The Book of Shemos opens with Pharaoh plotting the enslavement of the Jewish nation by declaring “Hava nischachmah lo, Let us deal wisely with them.” (Shemos 1:10). Pharaoh used his wisdom to harm Bnei Yisroel. In this week’s parshah, we read that it was the chachmei lev, the wise-hearted, led by Betzalel, who built the Mishkan, elevating not only themselves, but the entire Jewish nation.
Asher noss’o libo, every man whose heart inspired him.
The Ramban, Nachmanides explains noss’o libo as a heart that lifts one, a heart that carries a person to greater heights. A heart that is infused with inspiration and determination.
The Generation of the Exodus didn’t have any formal training in architecture, design or construction. Yet, they became carpenters, goldsmiths, weavers and master craftsmen. They built the Mishkan. And they built it without a glitch. How was this possible? Even with small construction jobs, invariably, something goes wrong.
With an inspired heart, with ambition and devotion, great things can happen.
I am reminded of Shulamit, a young girl from far-away New Caledonia with a beautiful neshamah. Though she had no formal Jewish education, upon reading the Rebbetzin’s books, was inspired to attend a yeshiva high school.
Shulamit traveled to the United States to pursue her dream. During the course of her interview, the dean asked her to read from the Chumash. She was able to read some Hebrew, and he then asked if she understood what she had just read.
“No”, she replied honestly, “But I want to know!”
“You’re in”, the rabbi happily told her. He understood that with an inspired heart she will succeed.
Shulamit became a top student, and continued on after high school to study in Israel. Boruch HaShem, today she is married and living in Yerushalayim, raising her own family on a path of Torah and mitzvos.
The power of an inspired heart.
We recite very day in our morning and afternoon prayers, “Poseach es yadecha, u’masbia l’chol chai ratzon, You (HaShem) open Your hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing.” (Tehillim 145:16) HaShem shows us a path, we only have to follow in His ways. To open our hand, and give.
Lev is mentioned fourteen times in this week’s parshah. Fourteen is the numerical value of the Hebrew word די†– hand. Let our giving heart, our wise heart, our inspired heart, pump the spiritual power of generosity into our hands. With these qualities, our hearts have the power to pump the ordinary into extraordinary.