give my son whatever you want

Friday, 23 June, 2017 - 4:10 am



“I am going to Paris, so I can bring something to your son who is studying there,” so said a Jew from Vitebsk to his friend in Shul. That person’s son was studying music in Paris, so he was quite happy with this offer. The “Jewish mail system” was always helpful there.

So the father gave the man ten thousand rubles and said to him: “Please take this to Paris, and give my son whatever you want; the rest will be your fee as a courier.”

When the courier arrived in Paris, he gave the student one thousand rubles and kept the rest for himself. The young man had received a telegram from his father, and therefore knew that his father had sent ten times that amount. He called the courier to a Din Torah (litigation in a rabbinical court) in front of a rabbi.

The wise rabbi said as follows to the courier: “The father said to you, ‘Give my son whatever you want.’ Now that we all know what you want – nine thousand rubles – you should give that sum to the son, and the remaining one thousand keep for yourself as your fee.”

“You shall not bear a sin when you raise up its best from it,” says the Torah in this week’s Parasha, relating to the gifts that are to be given (“raised up”) to the Cohanim. What sin is being referred to here? Chazal (our Sages) said that the gifts should be  from the best and choicest produce – the parts we would like to have for ourselves. The Rambam (Maimonides) wrote in Hilchot Issurei Mizbe’ach: “A person who wants to gain merits should overcome his evil inclination and open his hand and bring his sacrifice from the most beautiful and finest of the species he is bringing from.” The Rambam then goes on to broaden this principle, so that it includes anything that a person gives and donates: “The same is true for everything that is [given] for the name of the Good G-d, that it should be from the most beautiful and the best. If he builds a house of prayer, it should be finer than the house he lives in; if he feeds a hungry person, he should feed him from the best and sweetest that he has on his table; if he covers a naked person, he should cover him with the most beautiful of his clothes. If he consecrates something, it should be from the best of his possessions.”

For not only donations, but, rather, anything that we give for a holy purpose, for the Torah, the People and the Land, should be of the best, as the father said to the courier: “What you want for yourself, give my son.”


Shabbat Shalom,


Rabbi Zalmen Wishedski

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