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Parshas Ki Sayzzeih - Don't Take.....Receive       8 Elul 5783

08/25/2023 10:32:18 AM


Concentrating in Shul during davening is challenging enough without any outside interference. Many have experienced the annoying hand in your face at the Kotel with someone asking for tzedakah. Most people give willingly without interruption and may even be inclined to give more to the individual if they weren’t so disruptive. In many large shuls cross the United States, a different but still similar scenario occurs  involving a  group of collectors who, in the middle of davening, show up unannounced and proceed to walk up and down the rows clanging their change, asking individuals at prayer for donations to a various number of causes. In an attempt to minimize the distraction of asking for change, some members of the minyan bring a preset, organized stack of money to give to each hand placed in front of their face. Some people bring quarters, others bring dollars, leaving the contribution in clear view so that the collector understands that he is to take a predetermined stack of money and then move on. This strategy definitely has its advantages: first, the person donating the tzdakah knows precisely what amount he is giving,  and second, the donor is able to avoid any interaction between himself and the receiver. Although on the surface this seems to be a great idea, it does come with a modicum of downside. Everything in life has its pros and cons. One common issue that I have identified is on occasion, we tend to think that if I offer something, and people take that offer, then I have done something positive. But sometimes, allowing someone just to take a stack of money without it being overtly handed to that individual, may ultimately can lead to entitlement and prerogative. I will illustrate this in more detail as I have observed a few situations that reflect the importance of giving and not just taking. Both of these examples are with children but should be translated to adults doing the same thing:

First, Kiddush: Baruch Hashem, Beth Jacob has a kiddush after davening every Shabbos morning whether there is a sponsor or not. The kiddush is self-serve, buffet style, inviting people to come and take the food – a normal procedure typical of Shabbos kiddush.  Children tend to happily approach the tables and take whatever they want and as much as they want. I understand that kiddush is designed for people just to take. At the same time, children should be educated to learn that they need to ask for and be given food, not just take whatever they wish.  A considerable part of every child’s social and emotional development involves learning that it is not appropriate to assume that simply because I see something I want that I can just take as much of it as I wish.  The next time you go shopping, take a quick look at the fruit department in any grocery store.  It’s highly likely that you will see a child go to the bins of grapes, pick at them and pop them into his or her mouth. Worse yet, while waiting with his or her parent at the checkout line, the child might just be tempted to help him/herself to take a candy bar from the display rack.  The child may not see or understand that difference. Another Shul scene takes place at the candy man station. Traditionally, a child will approach the candy man and politely ask for a candy. The candy man may or may not ask the child a question, remind them to say please and thank you, and require a bracha/blessing to be recited and assure the candy man that the wrapper will make its way into the garbage. In some cases, this gentle guidance has all gone by the wayside -  the is left candy unattended, allowing the child to freely help him/herself to the candy.

As an observation, there is an interesting rationalization regarding why the candy man will just leave the candy bag available for the eager children to help themselves. The reason I should just allow someone to take something without me giving it to them is as follows. I reason to myself that the end results will be the same. Why should I trouble myself to put forth the effort to have to set out the candy and to be there to hand it out?  It’s really not a strenuous or time-consuming thing to do. The answer is critical and can directly lead to a potential life-long lesson. I know everyone thinks that it is only about the child taking without asking; it is equally important for the person to be there to give the candy to the child. When a person gives something to someone, a connection is made and a relationship is established. This emerging relationship creates a bond that is greater than simply being a supplier of candy. The candy man becomes the child’s friend, mentor, teacher. This is a time to use the opportunity to nurture the child to grow, to learn to appreciate the need to ask and to say ‘thank you’. Although the Hebrew word “to take” is "קח" and is used extensively to acquire something, it nevertheless is only after something prior to that acquisition has been done. This is highlighted in the beginning of tractate Kiddushin and sourced from the Torah.

The Torah in this week’s Parshas Ki Seitzay states in several places (Devarim 22:13, 24:1, 24:5, earlier 20:7)  "כי יקח איש אישה"    “When a man takes a woman”. This first half of the passuk does not mean that he literally and physically takes her but rather he marries her through a previous act of presenting her with an acquisition. To clarify, a man cannot take/marry a woman without first giving something to her. The man needs to give the woman he wishes to marry a document or money before anything else happens. Even if he gives one of those two items, there needs to be consent on her part; she openly accepts the gift or document. The meaning of “taking” is predicated upon something that happening beforehand. In addition, the woman cannot be the one to just take the money or the ketuba and become married; the man presenting the ketuba to the woman must hand it directly to her.  So too with the candy. The child should not just take it; the candy needs to be given to the child, creating a bond between giver and taker.  Chaza”l learn out that the words "כי יקח – אין קיחה אלא בכסף"  when you take – taking can only be effective when it is done with money. I can’t take something for myself without giving of myself first.

Giving and then taking creates a relationship between the giver and the taker. As we are rapidly approaching a new year when we want to take all the blessings that we need, leaving  behind all of the evil decrees.  For this to happen, we need to step up. Hashem is ready to give, but it is only effective if we give first. Only when we give our commitment and display our will to follow the Torah and fulfill the mitzvos will God be forthcoming with all that we need and want.  

Ah Gutten Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Fri, July 19 2024 13 Tammuz 5784