“And he was filled with the spirit of God, with wisdom and with knowledge”
From the words of Rav Eliezer Berland, shilta.
In the time of the Chofetz Chaim, there was an emissary who used to go by foot, from village to village, (and it seems he used to collect money for the Chofetz Chaim’s yeshiva.) There was one villager who gave him 50 zloty, which was a very large sum in those days, the days of the Chofetz Chaim.
Every time the emissary came to him, he’d give him 50 zloty.
‘If I had a horse, I’d collect more money’
One time he’d go by wagon, and one time by foot. And then one day, the Chofetz Chaim said to him (although it seems more likely that the emissary actually said this to the Chofetz Chaim): “Listen, I think that if I had my own horse and cart, and my own wagon-driver, I’d be able to collect a lot more money.
“Now, I have to trample through all the mud, and through all the snow, just to get to some village. And when I get there, the people aren’t always home… If I had a horse and cart, I could collect many times more funds.”
(It seems as though the Chofetz Chaim agreed with him, that he would be able to buy a horse and cart and rent a wagon-driver from the charitable funds he was collecting.)
What happened to the villager?
Good. So he got to that particular village with his horse and his cart and his driver – and the villager didn’t want to give him anything. So the Chofetz Chaim asked the emissary: “What happened with that villager?”
The emissary replied: “He said he didn’t want to give me anything. He saw me come with a horse and cart, and he said: “You’ve already become wealthy, you’ve got a horse. I don’t give money for horses and wagons. I give money for yeshiva bochurs (students), not for horses and wagon drivers.
Good. So the Chofetz Chaim, in his humility, decided to go and visit this villager himself. The villager told him:
“I’m not prepared to give money for people to start lording it around, and to have horses and wagons. I won’t give tzedaka (charitable funds) for that.”
Silver, gold, iron and copper
So then the Chofetz Chaim explained to him that it was written about Betzalel: “And he was filled with the spirit of God, with wisdom and with knowledge,” and that afterwards it’s written: “He had thoughts about silver, gold, iron and copper.” What’s the connection?
Everyone was giving tzedaka in some way. One person was giving charity wholeheartedly, so that it really would get to the orphans and the widows, and to the poor wretches. And then, there was the Holy of Holies. There were those who were giving charity for its own sake, and who were praying that the silver that they were giving would be used for the cherubim, and for the ark.
Other people weren’t really paying so much attention to this, because the ikker, the point was just to give. Their intention was to give a good amount, so they made plinths from this. Then, there were people who gave with less kavana (holy intentions), so they made the tendons and the pegs from these donations.
And after this, the princes of each tribe donated the bullocks and the wagons [to transport it all].
So, the Chofetz Chaim explained that Betzalel knew exactly what the intention of every single person was, that was it means that: “he was filled with the spirit of God, with wisdom and with knowledge,” and that after this: “He had thoughts about silver, gold, iron and copper.”
Giving for the sake of Heaven
Betzalel knew the intention behind every single cent, every penny, every single golden coin, he knew what the donor intended when he gave it. He knew if someone was donating in order to glorify himself, or whether it was truly donated for the sake of Heaven. And according to his understanding, he knew what to do with it.
And for the Holy of Holies, he only used that which had been donated truly for the sake of Heaven – and if that wasn’t the case, then he didn’t use it for that! Even if there would be a lack, he was prepared to wait for someone to come along and donate solely for the sake of Heaven.
The Chofetz Chaim told the villager that if he was really giving for the sake of Heaven, then his money would find its way to support Torah learning, and that everything had already been apportioned from Above.
When a person truly does something for the sake of Heaven, and he really thinks about doing it for the right reasons only, and about giving his money to Hashem Yitbarach, and to the Shechina (the Divine Presence), then he can merit that by his Torah learning, the Beit Hamikdash will be rebuilt.
Translated from the Tzama Nafshi Newsletter.