She Thought the Rebbe Didn’t Want Her to Have a Nice House

A woman once wrote to the Rebbe that she felt hurt because she understood that the Rebbe wished her not to be wealthy. The Rebbe’s response surprised her.

By Rabbi Mordechai Lipskier – The Beis Medrash

When it was time to give donations for building the mishkan, Hashem specified that He wanted the donations to be given wholeheartedly and without any ulterior motives.

Mefarshim explain that people may have ulterior motives when making donations. These ulterior motives stem mostly from social pressures, such as showing that they can be just as generous as the next guy, or even outdo him. Some people may be motivated by a good name, or feel embarrassed not to give if it’s an illustrious person collecting.

Hashem therefore instructed the Yidden to set aside their donations in the privacy of their home and wait for the collectors to pick them up. This method successfully avoided any external motivations or pressures.

Why was it so important that the donations to the mishkan be especially genuine? 

Because when something is done willingly, it endures, but when it’s done because of pressure, it doesn’t last. Hashem’s House would be lacking permanence if in their heart of hearts the donors didn’t really let go of their donations.[1]

If Hashem didn’t want His House built on account of social-pressure spending, shouldn’t we apply this in our own private lives?

In today’s society, even in Yiddishe communities, there is a lot of peer pressure. For example, we may feel compelled to spend money on items or experiences because of what others may think.

But financial peer pressure comes at a high price.

Even if I’m able to afford the vacation, if my motivation in taking the trip is to make a point to others—to set a trend, to match others, or to outdo them—I’ve lost something very important. How much more so if peer pressure puts me into debt.

Spending in this way is not a long-term investment. Items purchased based on others’ impressions won’t really make us happy or they’ll quickly lose their appeal. Our children will quickly sense when a family trip is motivated by the need to be like others rather than a genuine desire to spend quality time together. (A dead giveaway is when we share these special moments on social media.)

Hashem’s instructions in how to build His home are also instructions to us in how to build our own homes.

A woman once wrote to the Rebbe that she felt hurt because she understood that the Rebbe wished her not to be wealthy. The Rebbe responded (loose translation):

“Your letter came as a wonder to me, for it is well known that I wish every Jew a life of ampleness, materially and spiritually. And although the challenge of wealth is more difficult than that of the opposite, nevertheless, this is an avodah and we must support each other in recognizing this challenge and living up to it.

“What I wrote to you was that you should not live a life of superficial wealth, losing focus of what’s important, spiritually and even materially. Case in point, you are not satisfied with your wealthy lifestyle. Rather, you only find satisfaction when others recognize your wealthy lifestyle. But to reiterate, it’s indeed very possible to be both extremely wealthy and extremely pious.”[2]

May Hashem give all Yidden an abundance of material prosperity so that they may serve Him with an easy heart. And may our efforts in spending our money wisely bring about the coming of Moshiach, when we’ll once again bring genuinely wholehearted donations to the Beis Hamikdash.

[1] See Alshich, Imrei Pinchas, and Likutei Sichos vol 3, pg. 908

[2] Igros Kodesh vol. 14, pg. 295

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