Shabbat Shalom with a Heart Healthy Dose of Torah – Vayak’heil

The daughter of Rabbi Zusia of Anipol’s was engaged. Though poor, Reb Zusia and his wife scraped together enough money for a seamstress to sew a beautiful gown for the bride-to-be. After a month, the gown was ready, and Reb Zusia’s wife and daughter went with their bundle of rubles to the home of the seamstress to get the finished dress. They came home empty-handed. “Where is the gown?” asked the Rebbe.

“Well,” said his wife and daughter, “We did a mitzvah. When we came to pick up the gown, we saw tears in the eyes of the seamstress. We asked her why she was crying, and she told me that her daughter, too, was getting married. Then she looked at the beautiful gown that she had sewn for me and sighed, “if only we could afford such beautiful material for a gown.”

Reb Zusia’s wife continued. “At that moment, I decided to let the seamstress have our gown as a gift!”

Reb Zusia was delighted. The mitzvah of helping a poor bride was dear to him; he longed for the chance to fulfill it. But he added one question to his wife. “Did you pay her for the work she did for us?”

“Of course! It wasn’t ours to give had I not paid her for it!”

Moses implores the people to bring gifts, “as their hearts move them to bring.” The Torah text does not say that the gift has to make business sense. It has to come from one’s heart. Hollywood makes fortunes producing movies about characters who make super-human efforts to selflessly give of themselves (often at a significant cost and risk) to care for others. These stories often revolve around some crisis when a celebrated individual(s) stands forth to promote “Truth, Justice, and the American way.”

Sometimes these movies focus on known superheroes, while others elevate an otherwise unsuspecting “normal” person to superhero status. In most movies, the hero saves the day, and everyone lives happily ever after. But then, we grieved as Tony Stark (Iron Man), Bambi’s mother, Old Yeller, and so many heroic characters did not make it to the end of the story. The impact of their heroism remains instrumental to the ethical values that their stories espouse. Each of us has at least one favorite movie and several favorite heroes.

Of course, celebrating heroes translates into our real-world experiences. We celebrate the heroes who risked and/or gave their lives because they felt that circumstances required their efforts at all costs in their hearts. Every veteran, first responder, Peace or Change leader bears the scars earned from their heroic efforts.

So, however, are the people who personally touch our lives. Our teachers, parents, family, and neighbors impact our lives more significantly than those we celebrate with headlines. Though of lesser notoriety, their gifts mold and shape all of us who help forge the path for our future well-being.

Moses asks first for the gold, and only at the end of the list is the goat hair. The gold decorates the sacred objects. The goat hair gets woven into the curtain that separates the holy of holies from the mundane space. Only because of the goat hair, there exists an inner sanctuary for the Priests to meet God. Long before the Tabernacle, Moses met God in a simple tent outside of camp.

We quickly value people and gifts based on how we see their large-scale world impact. At the same time, we look past how the lesser-known, more intimate heroic impact ends up preparing people to do the work of world change. Ultimately, what matters most is – heart. As Lori and I progress through the DC series of “The Flash,” the Flash keeps losing his super speed. At least once per episode, someone reminds him that his heroism does not root in his speed but in his heart and the love it espouses. Not a bad message for all of us to remember. If we want to change the world – remember that it begins with the people whose lives we touch.

Shabbat Shalom.