All That Glitters Is Not Gold by Hillel Koslowe


This week’s Parashah begins with the words, “Eileh Fekudei HaMishkan…,” “These are the numberings of the Mishkan…” (Shemot 38:21). After this opening statement, the Torah explains how much of each item was given to aid in the building of the Mishkan.

Why does the Parashah begin with “Eileh Pekudei,” as opposed to Parashat Mishpatim which begins with “VeEileh HaMishpatim” (Shemot 21:1)? Rashi comments in Parashat Mishpatim that every time the Torah uses the word “Eileh”, it negates what was mentioned before. When the Torah uses the word “VeEileh”, it means that these Pesukim are a continuation of the previous ones.

If this is the case, what is “Eileh” coming to negate? The Or HaChayim explains that it cancels any other counts of wealth in the world, because counts of all possessions that are about fantasy and imaginations are not real counts. When a person counts their money and says they have “X” amount of money, it is really just fantasy. It doesn’t include all the counts of what we actually have, that being the Tzedakah that we give to others in need.

We can never say that we are worth our possessions, because possessions can come and go. Our value is not based on our possessions. Rather, it’s based on how many Mitzvot we have performed and how much Tzedakah we have given. It is easy to think that a man’s true value is equal to the sum of his possessions, but in reality, it is Mitzvot which we must count, not money.

Ramban explains that Kayin was named given his name because his parents, Adam and Chava, thought that a person is only worth what he is “Koneh,” acquires. It is evident that this is how Kayin lived, because he was unable to give.

Another negative trait associated with Kayin was his lack of respect towards others. When Kayin saw Hevel’s offerings, “Lo Sha’ah, VaYichar LeKayin Me’od,” “He did not respect Hevel, and Kayin was very angry” (BeReishit 4:5). When we value people based only on their possessions, we believe that we can always elevate ourselves above others, and that we can always out-do them. However, when we realize that our value is based on our actions and not our or others’ possessions, we can try to do our best, without focusing on surpassing others.

Kayin’s punishment for killing Hevel was that he would forever be a wanderer. As a lonely wanderer, even if one has many possessions and great wealth, he will nonetheless not be happy, because the wealth cannot be used for anything. Because Kayin believed that possessions determined his value, Hashem deservingly made him a wanderer, where no matter how much he had, he always felt worthless.

When we try to value ourselves based on our possessions, Hashem makes our possessions of no use. The only way to truly boost our value is by increasing our Mitzvot. Ultimately, we are valued by our Mitzvot and actions, not by our possessions.

Based on a Shiur given by Rabbi Dovid Ebner.

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