The Art of Piety by Rabbi Hershel Solnica



    We must all try to fully understand the meaning and the method of Jewish observance.  Whether it be in terms of our observance of Shabbos, or Kashrus, or the laws of Tzenius (modesty), or our involvement in Midos Tovos (good deeds), we often fall into the pitfall of doing these things as a matter of rote or formality.  Even if we say an introductory "לשם ייחוד," or a "הנני מוכן ומזומן" beforehand, we still sometimes lack a sense of beauty, newness and excitement in our performance of Mitzvos.  We are lacking in what we might call "the state of the art of Frumkeit," of religious piety.
    The Midrash comments on the beginning of this Sedrah, saying "בשעה שאמרו בני ישראל נעשה ונשמע מיד אמר הקב"ה ויקחו לי תרומה," meaning that Hashem told Moshe to command Bnai Yisrael to take (give) Terumah at the time just after they proclaimed "We shall do and we shall listen."  But what does giving Terumah, a donation to the Mishkan, have to do with the commitment of doing and listening?  The answer is that to do and to listen is not a complete demonstration of the true art of piety.  To reach the "state of the art" level of Frumkeit, one must take of one's self and of one's possession and give to others, because that is the truest way of giving and the most sincere way of doing and listening.  Chazal are telling us, then, that after the Bnai Yisrael committed themselves to Torah and Mitzvos and agreed to do them with devotion and Emunah, Hashem then added the "salt and pepper" of Yiddishkeit, commanding the people to serve Him by taking from their treasures and their possessions and giving Tzedakah with love and with feeling.  
    The Sefer Beis Avraham makes a beautiful comment when he says that the phrases in the Pesukim in our Parsha שמות כ"ב:ב',ג'() teach us the three key principles of true Judaism: Torah, Avodah, and Gemilus Chassadim.  The phrase "ויקחו לי תרומה" (שם פסוק ב'), teaching that one must take from one's self and give with devotion, as Rashi (שם בד"ה ויקחו) says, לי לשמי"," meaning that one must act for the sake of Hashem, is symbolic of Torah.  The phrase "מאת כל איש אשר ידבנו לבו" (שם פסוק ב'), implying that it is proper to give with devotion from the heart, is indicative of עבודה שבלב, the service of the heart, or Tefillah.  Finally, the references in the next Posuk (שם פסוק ג') to זהב וכסף ונחשת, gold, silver and copper, is clearly symbolic of the Mitzvah of Tzedakah and Gemilus Chassadim.
    Underlying all these aspects of the Jewish experience and of a proper Torah-based Hashkofoh is the notion of being ready to give of what one owns.  To take one's time, one's energy and of one's possessions for the sake of others and for the sake of Klal Yisrael is to demonstrate the truest art of piety; such behavior is the state of the art.  It is not only what one does that counts, but how one does it.  The way to uplift our lives is by raising the spirits and feelings of others by giving of ourselves in their behalf. 

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