Thursday, February 3, 2011

Why Only Those Whose "Heart Maketh Him Willing" Are Commanded to Give Terumah (Tithes)?

This week's Parsha, Terumah, opens up with G-D commanding Moshe to (Shemos 25:2-8):
ב  דַּבֵּר אֶל-בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל, וְיִקְחוּ-לִי תְּרוּמָה:  מֵאֵת כָּל-אִישׁ אֲשֶׁר יִדְּבֶנּוּ לִבּוֹ, תִּקְחוּ אֶת-תְּרוּמָתִי.2 'Speak unto the children of Israel, that they take for Me an offering; of every man whose heart maketh him willing ye shall take My offering.
ג  וְזֹאת, הַתְּרוּמָה, אֲשֶׁר תִּקְחוּ, מֵאִתָּם:  זָהָב וָכֶסֶף, וּנְחֹשֶׁת.3 And this is the offering which ye shall take of them: gold, and silver, and brass;
ד  וּתְכֵלֶת וְאַרְגָּמָן וְתוֹלַעַת שָׁנִי, וְשֵׁשׁ וְעִזִּים.4 and blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine linen, and goats' hair;
ה  וְעֹרֹת אֵילִם מְאָדָּמִים וְעֹרֹת תְּחָשִׁים, וַעֲצֵי שִׁטִּים.5 and rams' skins dyed red, and sealskins, and acacia-wood;
ו  שֶׁמֶן, לַמָּאֹר; בְּשָׂמִים לְשֶׁמֶן הַמִּשְׁחָה, וְלִקְטֹרֶת הַסַּמִּים.6 oil for the light, spices for the anointing oil, and for the sweet incense;
ז  אַבְנֵי-שֹׁהַם, וְאַבְנֵי מִלֻּאִים, לָאֵפֹד, וְלַחֹשֶׁן.7 onyx stones, and stones to be set, for the ephod, and for the breastplate.
ח  וְעָשׂוּ לִי, מִקְדָּשׁ; וְשָׁכַנְתִּי, בְּתוֹכָם.8 And let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them.

However, there is something unusual about this command that G-D is giving over. If all of these materials are going to be used for the Mishkan (Temporary Temple) why doesn't G-D command everyone to give Terumah (tithes)? One might claim that G-D is commanding everyone to give tithes, but this is simply not the case. The second verse of the Parsha clearly states that only "every man whose heart maketh him willing ye shall take My offering." How can a commandment only apply to those that WANT to do the commandment? 

I could give my own idea, but first let us see what Rav Moshe Feinstein has to say. In Darash Moshe (Terumah on this verse) Rav Feinstein asks the same question. He says,

It is a wonderment (speaking about the part of the verse of "take for Me an offering of every man whose heart maketh him willing"), and should Terumah (tithes) not be taken from those who are not willing? It is a stretch to answer that [the Torah] is coming to teach us that we do not take Terumah with Judges (by force), just like by the commandment of Tzedakah (charity) where we also do not take charity through judges (by force) and we do not compel anyone to give (see Tosfos in Kesubos 49b Divrei hamaskil Akfiya). Nevertheless, we won't answer [this question] in this manner.   

It appears that [the Torah] is teaching us that only those that are willing [to give] are commanded in the Mitzva (commandment) of Terumah and the people whose hearts do not desire to give, G-D does not want to command them [to give]. If these people, who do not want to give, give Terumah to fulfill the commandment they still receive reward, but it is the reward of someone who is not commanded and fulfills the Mitazva (a lower level of reward).

I think [this idea] applies by Munachos (99b) where it says on this verse:

For R. Samuel b. Nahmani said in the name of R. Jonathan, This verse is neither duty nor command but a blessing. For when the Holy One, blessed be He, saw that the words of the Torah were most precious to Joshua, as it is written, His minister Joshua, the son of Nun, a young man, departed not out of the tent, He said to him, ‘Joshua, since the words of the Torah are so precious to thee, [I assure thee,] ‘this book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth’!

Apparently, this idea in the Gemara is a wonderment. Is the idea that one should not forget Torah (that is learned) really a blessing? On the contrary, we find in Sanhedrin (106b) that Doeg is punished by forgetting the Torah (that he learned). So, this person that is not punished [Joshua] is receiving a blessing?

Therefore, we need to say that since the words of the Torah were so precious to Joshua (Yehoshua) therefore G-D commanded him to never allow the words of Torah to depart from his mouth.
(This is like the view that R. Shmuel ben Nahmani in the name of R. Jonathan was arguing on which says: Ben Damah the son of R. Ishmael's sister once asked R. Ishmael, May one such as I who have studied the whole of the Torah learn Greek wisdom? He thereupon read to him the following verse, This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth, but thou shalt meditate therein day and night.(Joshua 1:8) Go then and find a time that is neither day nor night and learn then Greek wisdom.)

This explanation (that G-D commanded Joshua not to let the words of Torah ever to leave his mouth.) is even according to R. Shmuel ben Nahmani in the name of R. Jonathan.  [However, where R. Shmuel ben Nahmani argues is] by people who the Torah is not dear to them. It is not fit for G-D to command them to learn all the time. (However, Ben Damah would hold that even they are commanded to learn all the time.) Therefore, according to R. Samuel b. Nahmani in the name of R. Jonathan,  if they learn without desire and without a great love they will be considered like someone who is performing a Mitzva (commandment) even though they were not commanded (which carries with it a lower level of reward). Therefore, everyone should strive to learn with a great desire and love for Torah and G-D. This also applies to every Mitzva that does not have a specified amount (like Torah learning) because only those that love the Mitzva are commanded to perform it as much as possible.

Rav Moshe's idea makes a lot of sense to me. Let me explain what I think he is saying in a more practical sense. There are certain commandments that G-D gave us that have specific rules. For example, one must sit in a Sukkah on Succos, one must keep kosher, one must put on tefillin, etc.... These rules all have specific guidelines. Everyone is commanded to keep them on the same level because they set up the bear minimum guideline for following Judaism (Orthodox Judaism). However, there are certain commandments that were given without guidelines like learning Torah and giving charity. Rav Moshe is telling us that these Mitzvos show us how G-D only wants us to want to serve Him. If G-D forces us to love Him or our fellow Jew then that "love" is, essentially, worthless. Therefore, we must realize our love for G-D on our own and that will bring us to want to follow His commandments. That is why Terumah (tithes) was only commanded to those "whose heart compels him" because it is this true love that G-D desires us to acquire. G-D does not want us to artificially go through the motions and be robots of obedience. He wants us to reach a level in our hearts and minds that we are able to realize how much we truly love Him and His Torah. If we can't reach this level then G-D is not going to force us into servitude, it MUST be OUR choice!

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