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With All You Got

Do you live with all you got, or do you hold back out of fear, shame, insecurity, or lack of confidence?

Every year, Jews took up a collection. Every Jew donated a half silver coin and the proceeds of the annual collection were allocated to purchase the communal offerings.

Every day, priests would bring two offerings on behalf of the nation, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. On Shabbat and Jewish holidays, there were additional offerings. These offerings were purchased with funds collected from every Jewish person, which is how they represented the entire nation. It was as if each Jew were in the Temple bringing these offerings.

The rule for these offerings, as is the case for every offering, is that the animal must be whole. If there is even one slight blemish, the animal is not fit for an offering. It was everything-or-nothing. Either come to G-d with all you got, or don’t bother coming at all. The perfect G-d is only offered perfect offerings.

Yet, the coins with which these offerings were collected were woefully incomplete. The Torah only permits the Jew to donate a half shekel, a half silver coin. Why, we ask? Why can’t we offer a complete coin? We understand that the poor should not be expected to give more than a half coin, but why can’t the wealthy give more? Why must they settle for a half?

Moreover, why should complete offerings be purchased with half coins? Shouldn’t we pay for G-d’s offerings with all we got? It would seem that G-d needs to make up His mind: Is He satisfied with our meager gifts, or does He demand perfection?

You Are Only Half
Rabbi Dov Ber of Mezrich explained it like this: We must remember that no matter how capable, talented, or charismatic we are, we are only half. A complete shekel was twenty geirah. A half shekel was ten geirah. Ten is a nice round number, it is complete. But it is still just half. Even when we give it our all, we are not perfect. Only G-d is perfect. With G-d, we reach perfection, but only with G-d. On our own, we are just half.

So, should we give less than half since we are imperfect anyway? No, says the Torah. That is never okay. Whatever we have, we must invest. No one can give more because you can’t give more than you have. No one can give less because you shouldn’t give less than you have. Each one of us must give all we got.

But You Are Perfect
But all you got, is perfect. It is not complete, and it is not whole, but it is perfect. Why? Because you gave it your all. And that is perfect. Whether it is a lot or a little, it is all you got.

This is why there are two contrary messages. On the one hand, you can only give an incomplete coin. No matter how much you give, you are incomplete. You are only half. On the other hand, these incomplete coins purchase whole perfect offerings. Because giving all you got, is perfect.

The Higher Power
Those of us who suffer addiction are very aware of The Higher Power. Acknowledging this higher power and knowing that we can’t manage on our own, is the first step toward healing. But we don’t need to be broken to accept the higher power. We can be complete and still recognize the higher power. We can and we should. Because no matter how complete we think we are, we are just half. The higher power makes up the other half. And that is the most important half. G-d is our better angel. He is out better half.

Why do we need to be broken to find G-d? Why should we only turn to G-d in a crisis when we need Him urgently? The best way to find G-d is to make our way to Him every day. On the days that we feel inadequate and un-whole as well as on the days that we feel whole and complete. In fact, on those days we need G-d even more than when we feel incomplete.

This is illustrated by a poignant story. A great rabbi once sent his student to serve as a rabbi in a distinguished Jewish community. The student objected saying, “Rabbi I don’t feel worthy of this post.” The Rabbi replied, “If not you, then who, someone who does feel worthy?”

Those who feel worthy rely on their egos, resourcefulness, knowledge, and creativity. They won’t ask for advice and won’t humble themselves. They are not worthy of shepherding G-d’s children. They are not worthy of representing G-d. They don’t think of G-d as their other half. They feel woefully complete.

True Humility
By no means does this mean that the path to G-d is to feel worthless. There is a world of difference between feeling unworthy and feeling worthless. It is like the difference between thinking less of yourself and thinking of yourself less. The humble feel that everything they do is perfect because they don’t do it alone, they do it with G-d. This is incompleteness and perfection wrapped up in one because this paradox captures the ultimate truth. Without G-d, we are broken shards. With G-d, we are perfect.

That is why we say that we must give it our all. We can’t hold back. Every part of us is G-d given. Every part of us was created to shine. Don’t be bashful. Don’t worry about what others might say. If you can sing, sing for all you are worth and don’t be ashamed. If you can perform, go out there and perform. Lay it all out and give it all you got because every part of you was given to you to live with. G-d didn’t give you talents so you can waste it. G-d gave them to you so you can use it. So go ahead and use it for Him.

If you use all your talents, abilities, resources, and creativity, and I use all of mine, and everyone else uses all of theirs, and we do it all without reservation, the whole of the world will be living with G-d. No one will be complete, but everyone will give it their all. And because it is their all, it will be perfect. So long as they do it with G-d. So long as we remember that all we got, is just half of the equation.

We can only take it so far. We can only push it for so long. In the end, we need to turn to G-d because without Him we are nothing. An empty vessel. A lonely sock. We are like a trumpet without a trumpeter. We do our best to be ready for the concert, but without G-d, our trumpet doesn’t produce music. With G-d, however, there is no limit to how beautiful a melody we can produce.

So don’t hold back, you can’t afford to. Live with all you got. Give G-d all you got. Do it for Him and use it for Him because between G-d and you, lies perfection. If you hold back, it will be a blemish on you and your offering will be unfit for G-d. Live life as athletes play their sport. Leave it all on the field. Hold nothing back. Live with joy, live with verve, and live with spirit.

Above all, live with confidence, and live with humility because when you practice those two correctly, they are two sides of the same coin. You will live with G-d with all you got, I will live with G-d with all I got, and together, in perfect unity, we will all live with G-d with everything we all got.

When that happens, there will no further excuse for our continued exile. G-d will hear our cry and finally respond by bringing Mashiach, our long awaited and highly anticipated redeemer. Speedily in our times, Amen.[1]

[1] This essay is based on the very last talk given by the Lubavitcher Rebbe before his stroke in 1992. Toras Menachem 5752:2, pp. 357–373.

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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