Give and Take by Chaim Strauss


Last week’s Parsha, Mishpatim, is filled with commandments regarding man’s obligation toward his fellow man.  This week’s Parsha, Terumah, focuses more on the spiritual aspect of our existence.  Hashem commands Bnei Yisrael to build a Mishkan in which He will dwell.  He instructs Am Yisrael to contribute gold, silver, and many other materials that will be used for building and furnishing the Mishkan.  However, Hashem does not ask the Jews to give; rather, He has Moshe ask them to take, as the Pasuk indicates: “Dabeir El Bnei Yisrael Veyikchu Li Terumah,”  “Speak to Bnei Yisrael and tell them to take a donation for me.”  Why does Hashem use the word “take” rather than “give?”

A Mashal, parable, may help explain this issue.  One day, while Reuvein and Shimon were out fishing in the middle of the sea, a fierce storm developed.  The little fishing rowboat that they were in tossed and tossed until it finally flipped over into the sea, throwing Reuvein and Shimon overboard.  Reuvein, who was a strong swimmer, called to Shimon, but Shimon did not even respond to him and unfortunately drowned.  Reuvein swam back to shore and had to break the terrible news to Shimon’s wife.  Very distraught, she asked him to tell her the entire story.  He told her how the storm had caused the boat to flip, and how when the two had gone waterborne, he repeatedly yelled to Shimon, “Give me your hand!”  “You fool,” exclaimed Shimon’s widow, “you said the wrong thing!  You should have yelled, ‘take my hand!’  Shimon never gave anything to anybody.”

Sometimes, accepting a decision must be based on the subject’s point of view.  Hashem could have used either word, “give” or “take.”  However, in His infinite wisdom, He realized that being asked to “give” so much might have scared the people from giving at all.  Therefore, by using “take,” which people often associate with their own benefit, He was able to ensure that there would be enough donations for all the supplies, and that they would be made with happiness, not regrets.  Clearly, selecting one’s words carefully is absolutely critical, and we must choose only the finest, most Torah-appropriate to speak.


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