A few years ago I visited someone to introduce him to our yeshiva for adults and ask for his support. He had never heard anything like it; honestly, he was impressed. He said he liked our unique approach that gives access to in-depth Torah learning and provides real skills to those who didn’t acquire that knowledge earlier in life. He liked our offering serious classes for women also. I asked him for a sizeable gift. His reply reflected the successful businessman that he is.
“I give generously to various institutions. Yours was not on my list. However, after hearing about the great work you do and how many people you’re influencing, I would like to lend my support. You see, I view this as an investment. A good investor has a portfolio, reflecting a diversity of investment types. I am going to invest in your yeshiva and place it in my portfolio.”
His response reflected the words of Rav Dessler: A person needs to be a giver, not a taker. We all are recipients at some point, but we often feel unsatisfied when taking. Hashem made humans that way. Giving is what it’s all about: a husband to a wife, a parent to a child. Indeed, newborn infants are totally dependent on their parents. Parents give and give to their children. They feed them, clothe them, educate them, encourage them, soothe their aches and teach them skills. Being a parent is a life of giving!
While someone raising funds for a cause might be in danger of developing the “taker” trait, the way to prevent that is by really believing you’re giving the other person a fantastic opportunity to “invest” in a worthy cause. You are helping them, since you know your cause yields amazing dividends! The individual in our story listened to my presentation, evaluated the merits of our yeshiva and, by becoming a donor, counted our yeshiva as one of his valuable investments.
A similar perspective is seen in Parshas Vayishlach. Yaakov went alone to fetch the small jugs he left behind. He was attacked by the angel of Esav. They wrestled throughout the night as the angel of Esav kept trying, without success, to harm Yaakov. Finally, the angel hit Yaakov in kaf yericho, the ball of his thighbone (Rashi 32:26).
Why does it say the angel was unsuccessful if he indeed hurt Yaakov by hitting his thighbone? The Zohar says he was unable to actually hurt Yaakov, but he struck at future supporters of Torah. The Chofetz Chaim explains that Yaakov himself symbolized Torah learning, and the angel of Esav attempted to stop Yaakov and his future children who would learn Torah. That he wasn’t able to do. But Esav was successful in dealing a blow to people who fund Torah learning. This is symbolized by the yerach, the hip, which supports the body, as the supporters of Torah hold up Torah study.
The angel chose this moment to attack—right after Yaakov had returned to get his small jugs. The angel sensed vulnerability; even though the jugs weren’t worth that much, Yaakov still seemed to value material items enough to spend a lot of time to retrieve them! But it didn’t work. Yaakov and his future offspring of Torah learners would not in fact diminish their Torah study to pursue money. Indeed, they would see monetary assets as gifts from Hashem to use to support their Torah study! Even the jugs were resources, not to be wasted. However, for working people who support the Torah study of others, the challenge is harder because they are in the financial world. They are pulled to focus their attention on many areas and objectives and it can be hard to keep their priorities in proper order. This was the target of attack for Esav’s angel.
The attack lasted all night. Interestingly, the Midrash says the night represents our time in exile. The struggle ended at dawn—alos hashachar—which refers to the time of Moshiach. My friends, this remains an epic struggle.
Giving is a key part of the human psyche. But Esav’s angel made it a challenge. It’s a battle, especially when the giving is to help further Torah study. I want to thank3 all those strong individuals who have won their battle of values, opened their hearts and invested in our yeshiva. Right now, the battle is on! Our dinner campaign, which is our major fundraiser to help cover a large portion of the Yeshiva Ner Boruch-PTI/ Neve PTI operating budget, is in its final hours. Our supporters are truly strong, committed individuals who invest in the quality Torah learning that takes place in our unique yeshiva, where over 200 men and women learn as a result of the various opportunities provided throughout the week.
May your investments yield tremendous dividends, both in this world and the world to come!
Rabbi Baruch Bodenheim is the associate rosh yeshiva of Passaic Torah Institute (PTI)/Yeshiva Ner Boruch. PTI has attracted people from all over northern New Jersey, including Teaneck, Paramus, Rockaway and Fair Lawn. He initiated and continues to lead a multi-level Gemara-learning program. Recently he has spread out beyond PTI to begin a weekly beis midrash program with in-depth chavrusa learning in Livingston, Fort Lee and a monthly group in West Caldwell. His email is [email protected]