Vayakhal-Pekudei: Don't Stop Me If You've Heard This One.

When we don’t need more of something, it’s natural to tell someone who brings more,  “Thanks, but I have enough.”  After all, wouldn’t it be wrong to mislead someone who thinks their gift is needed when it is not, and they could keep, return, or give it to someone who does need it?

The problem with this line of thinking is that it prioritizes the would-be recipient’s needs over the giver’s feelings.  Such is contrary to Torah ethics, which requires us to “Love our fellow as ourselves, “ or as Rabbi Akiva taught, “What is hateful to you do not do to others.”  If we had gone to the trouble to buy or make a gift, how would we feel if, upon delivery, the recipient rejected it as not needed?  We would likely be disappointed and/or hurt.   

In this week’s Torah portion,Vayakhail-Pekudei, the Israelites were commanded to bring items for construction of the Mishkan (sanctuary/tabernacle), and they responded enthusiastically.   Italian commentator Rabbi Obadia Sforno (1475-1550) noted that when Moses’ artisans told him that sufficient contributions had been received, Moses did not say, “Don’t accept any more.”  Doing so would have meant turning away those who had already spent time and effort to prepare their contribution.  

Instead, Moses instructed the people in a way that would not cause them anguish:  Al ya’asoo od m’lachah litroomat hakodesh.”  Make no further effort toward gifts for the sanctuary,” (Genesis 31-6) implying that all efforts to that point would still be gratefully received.   (Shaar bas Rabim on this verse). 

In his book Love Your Neighbor, Rabbi Zelig Pliskin also cites the example of thanking people who bring us news that we’ve already heard.  If we say, “Thanks, I heard that,” we are depriving them of the pleasure of telling us.  Better not to spoil their pleasure by disclosing that it is already “old news.” 

The principal lesson: Before saying or doing anything, consider the effect on others!  

Shabbat shalom!  




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If charity cost nothing, the world would be full of philanthropists.
Jewish Proverb