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The Recipient

Whom do you think is more significant, the giver or the recipient? Most would say the giver, right?

Which do you think was better, the traveling Tabernacle or the permanent Temple? Good question, right?

The Tabernacle was mobile, and it spread its holiness around, the Temple was stationary and kept its holiness in place. The Tabernacle came to the people, but the people had to come to the Temple. On the other hand, the places visited by the Tabernacle were not indelibly changed, but the Temple Mount became eternally holy. So, which is better?

Giving and Receiving
Let’s consider the dynamics between a giver and recipient to gain insight into the difference between the Temple and the Tabernacle.

There are some people that are naturally generous; they derive genuine pleasure from giving. In fact, when there is no one in need, these people can’t find peace. They run around looking for a cause. They need to give. I am not talking about narcissists who crave attention and give only to see their picture in the newspaper. I am talking about genuine benefactors who derive sincere joy from giving.

You might recall that Abraham was despondent on the third day after his circumcision because there was no passerby for him to host in his tent. G-d deliberately made it hot that day to keep people off the streets so Abraham could convalesce, but Abraham was disconsolate. He wanted, even needed, to give.

From the perspective of someone like Abraham, it would make sense to say that the recipient’s need is ancillary. It is just there to give the giver has a chance to give. Yet, we find that givers take no pleasure in giving what recipients don’t need. A genuine benefactor doesn’t help people who have no need when he can’t find someone with a need. It doesn’t give them any joy to give. It only gives them joy to fill a need.

Moreover, the recipient’s attitude also spells all the difference. If the recipient takes it and shows no gratitude, or worse, shows no hope and remains despondent, the giver feels bad. He wants his gift to make a difference. If his gift gets swallowed up in the recipient’s bottomless pit of need, the giver is unhappy. He looks for additional ways to help and won’t rest until he finds a way to bring the recipient comfort.

So, it is not just about the giver’s desire to give. The recipient’s benefit is really important here. In fact, it is even more important. If the recipient doesn’t seem to have benefited, the giver doesn’t derive any joy from giving. This is because our desire to give is rooted in our desire to be meaningful. And we are only meaningful when we make a difference. There is no meaning in giving without making a difference.

So, you would think that the giver is more significant than the recipient, but that is from a neutral perspective. It turns out that from the giver’s perspective, the recipient is more important than the giver.

G-d And Us
Let’s now relate this back to G-d and us. G-d created the world and wanted to bestow goodness upon it. The best goodness that He could bestow on it, is Himself. This is why He sought to reveal Himself. He asked us to make a home for Him so that He could dwell in it. This way He would have a home among us and would be able to share Himself—His absolute goodness—at all times.

But there was a problem. This world is not a natural habitat for G-d. It is not a conducive place for G-d to dwell in. Most people wouldn’t even know how to appreciate the gift of G-d. Give them a martini, a speed boat, and a condo on the beach, and they will know how to value it. But give them G-d, what are they meant to do with it?

So, G-d is in the same pickle as the benefactor who wants to help someone, but the recipient is in such a state that he is unable to appreciate the help. There is no joy in such assistance. There is no meaning in such gifts.

This was G-d’s predicament in the Tabernacle. We made a home for Him, He came to dwell in it, but no one knew how to appreciate it. The nations didn’t come running to see G-d so, instead G-d went to visit them. He had a mobile home constructed and traveled around the desert. Still, wherever He went, He made little impression. When the tabernacle left, the place was as unholy as it had been before the visit.[1]

If we were G-d, we might have grown frustrated. Thankfully, G-d has more patience that us. He waited patiently, cultivated the people’s appreciation slowly, and several centuries later, we were ready to build G-d a permanent home. This time, the home made an indelible impression on its location and the people.

People streamed from all over the world to see the Temple. They weren’t coming to marvel over its architecture. Back then, international travel was onerous and dangerous. Very few people traveled just to take in the sights. People made the arduous trip to the Temple to see G-d. They marveled over the holiness of the place, trembled in awe of G-d, melted in ecstasy, and luxuriated in the palpable energy.

This time it wasn’t just G-d pushing Himself into a place where He wasn’t understood or appreciated. This time the recipients appreciated G-d’s gift and allowed it to make a difference. This became a meaningful relationship for G-d and, consequently, a meaningful relationship for the people.

The Moral
It is not enough to give people a gift. It is important to give them the gift they appreciate. Similarly, it is not enough to be present with your friends. It is important to be sensitive to their interests and be the kind of friend that appreciates them. It is not enough to be a giving spouse; it is important to be an attentive spouse. It is not enough to know that your children love you, it is important to let your children know how much you love them.

Remember that the best way to let someone know how important they are to you and how much you appreciate and love them, is to give them the greatest gift of all, your time. If you give them this special commodity—time you could have used for your own interests and hobbies—and spend it instead with them, it can spell the entire difference in the relationship. Share with them, smile at them, listen to them, and be present with them. Above all, let them know by your actions, not just your words, that you cherish them.

If you do all that for your family and friends, do it for G-d too. After all, G-d is always there for you. Every day when you wake up, G-d gives you breath. He gives you sight and the power to get out of bed. Even before you think of G-d, let alone acknowledge Him, He is already providing for you.

But we have already established that there is little joy in giving when our gift is not appreciated. So let us give G-d the time of day. When we wake up in the morning, let’s thank Him for the day ahead. When we go to sleep at night, let’s thank Him for the day that passed. Let’s show Him appreciation because He deserves it.

Moreover, the more He enjoys the experience of giving, the more He is likely to give.[2]

[1] O course, if G-d visited, it had some kind of impact, but not one that was easily apparent.

[2] This essay is based on Likutei Sichos 6, pp. 18–21.

About the Author
Rabbi Lazer Gurkow, a renowned lecturer, serves as Rabbi to Congregation Beth Tefilah in London Ontario. He is a member of the curriculum development team at Rohr Jewish Learning Institute and is the author of two books and nearly a thousand online essays. You can find his work at www.innerstream.org
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