May 22, 2024
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May 22, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

As they did each Tuesday evening, Rivka and her mother got ready to head out to their learning group. And as she did before each session, Rivka began to worry. Well, maybe worry was too strong of a word, but she definitely started to feel a bit nervous. You see, the learning group was for local girls and their mothers, so many of Rivka’s friends attended regularly. Unfortunately for Rivka, this meant that her classmates and besties would have a front seat to all of her mother’s questions. It’s not like the questions themselves were embarrassing, but her mother asked so many. However, Rivka was mostly used to it by now, and she had learned to laugh about it with her friends. So, as they headed out on their short walk to the shul, Rivka wasn’t really that worried.

On the way, Rivka and her mother talked about Rivka’s role on the yearbook committee. Rivka and a few girls were tasked with raising money for publishing, for which they used a few different strategies. “So Rivka,” asked her mother, “how’s the fundraising coming along?” Rivka paused for a moment to gather her thoughts before responding. “Rivka, did you hear my question?” Rivka nodded. “I did, but the answer isn’t simple. It’s both going well and not so well. Getting money from people has been easy. We have sold plenty of food during lunch, and many parents, and even students, have donated. But when we ask someone to volunteer to help, we get a million questions: ‘Where is it?’ ‘What exactly do I have to do?’ ‘For how long?’ ‘How much do you think we will raise?’ It makes it very hard to get volunteers.” Rivka’s mom nodded and stuck out her lower lip, as if impressed by the problem. “Interesting challenge. I’m gonna think about it. But later. We’re almost at shul.”

After the learning session was completed (only four questions from Mom this time), Rivka and her mother walked home. On the way, they talked about the parsha, which was the topic of the learning. It seemed as if both mother and daughter forgot about the discussion they had earlier. Upon arriving home, Rivka headed upstairs to finish her homework, and her mother stayed downstairs to read in the living room. By the time she was ready to go to bed, Rivka’s mother had actually completely forgotten about coming up with a solution for Rivka’s volunteer shortage.

A few days later, Rivka and her family were home on a Sunday afternoon. They had just returned from a trip to the mall (outside of Bergen County, of course) when the doorbell rang. Rivka’s mother went to answer the door and was greeted by a man collecting tzedaka. Without asking any questions, Rivka’s mother grabbed her bag, pulled out her wallet, and handed the man a few bills. The man thanked her, and Rivka’s mothers smiled and waved as the man descended the front steps and drove off in his Ferrari. “Mom?” Rivka addressed her mother, “did you notice the car that man was driving? I’m pretty sure he didn’t need your $25 dollars for tzedaka.” Rivka’s mother shrugged. “You’re probably right. I didn’t notice the car until after I handed him the money. What are you going to do?” And that was the end of the conversation.

(Anyone paying attention to this story should be as puzzled as Rivka was. On one hand, her mother was the Queen of Questions. Rivka’s mom made sure to understand the details of every decision she made and, of course, every Torah topic she learned. Wouldn’t she be as careful when giving away money? But Rivka’s mother didn’t ask the man collecting tzedaka one question about where the money was going, let alone take a second to notice that he was driving a super-expensive sports car. What was the deal?

Additionally, someone paying really close attention to this story might notice that Rivka’s own situation was similar to her mom’s. Rivka’s classmates and their parents also gave money without asking, although they had plenty of questions when it came to volunteering their time. So, let’s see what Mom had to say about this. I bet Rivka will learn a thing or two from her mother’s answer.

Later that day, Rivka and her mother were sitting and talking in the den, and Rivka asked her mother about the tzedaka collector. Why didn’t she ask him a million questions like she usually did? Rivka’s mother listened to her daughter’s question, and responded without hesitating. “Rivka, that’s just money. Yes, money is important, but it’s just a thing that is used to buy other things. Anyway, I always plan to give a certain amount to tzedaka, and the money I gave him wasn’t that much. But when it comes to Judaism, we are talking about my life. All the time and energy I focus on learning Torah and keeping the mitzvot is way more precious to me than a few dollars. For that, and for other precious things, I want to understand every detail.”

Rivka smiled. “Thanks Mom. You just answered more than one question for me.”

Parshat Terumah tells us about the materials that were donated towards the construction of the Mishkan. For some of the materials, we are not told the purpose, but for others, like the Avnei Shoham, we are told. As the passuk says, “and precious stones for the Ephod and the Choshen.” Why would Hashem include the purpose of certain materials when asking for donations? Perhaps it has to do with how precious something is. To ask people to give up something rare and important (like free time in our story), you must help them understand the purpose for their sacrifice.


Yair Daar is the middle school dean of students at Yeshivat He’Atid. He can be reached at [email protected].

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