What seems to be generosity is often no more than disguised ambition, which overlooks a small interest in order to secure a great one. -Francois de la Rochefoucauld

Moses calls for the people of Israel to donate materials for the construction of the Tabernacle. Gold, silver, wood, precious stones, fine linens, skins and more, all flow as contributions. The donations become so extensive that Moses sends an order throughout the camp: Enough! We have more than enough to complete the work, please stop sending your contributions.

This is often presented as the classic example of Jewish generosity. However, the Sfat Emet in 5635 (1875) understands a possibly darker motivation to such lavishness. He claims that this was a case of inappropriate generosity. The donors gave more than they should have. Their motivation was no longer one of divine service, but rather had a very egocentric focus. Whether it was one-upmanship, the pride of attesting to a sizeable contribution or some other benefit, these donations were no longer for God’s sake and these types of gifts needed to be stopped.

The Sfat Emet further warns that there is a danger of becoming arrogant upon the completion of some effort. We may forget that God is truly the source of all wealth and success. If we attribute these matters solely to our own mortal efforts and forget the involvement of the Divine, we run the risk of receiving a harsh reminder that all is in God’s hands.

Shabbat Shalom,

Ben-Tzion

Dedication

To the fundraising campaign to send Rivka Sirkin to school in Israel. A good cause.