Parshas Terumah – giving back

A chasid once came to the Baal Shem Tov, almost breaking down he managed to get his story out. “Rebbe, I feel terrible. I don’t understand what is happening to me! A few months ago I started to put in some effort in my Avodas Hashem, and I immediately felt myself enveloped with this holy feeling! When I was davening I really felt like I was talking to Hashem. When I was learning I felt the joy of the Torah and the gates of wisdom opened before me. Whenever I did any Mitzvah I felt this joy that is beyond words. But recently, it’s just not the same. It’s all gone. My tefillah is a bunch of mumbles, I can’t learn a word without getting distracted, and I don’t feel anything special when I do a mitzvah. Rebbe, what happened to me?”
The Baal Shem Tov, calmed him down and began to tell him a story, “A man once entered a store where all these delicious foods were on display. He noticed lots of people taking food for free with the owners consent! So this man decided he should also grab a bite for free. After tasting every dish on the counter he went back to his favorite and began piling it up on his plate. The owner quickly grabbed his hand, “Wait a minute my friend” said the owner, “that’ll be 50 cents.” The man was surprised, “But I don’t understand, why do you all of the sudden want me to pay you? Up until now you let me eat for free!” “I only let people eat for free so they sample all my dishes, it’s good for business. But now that you’ve tasted all of them and can appreciate what makes each dish so good, it is time to start paying to get your fill.” Said the shop owner. The Baal Shem Tov, put his hand on his Chasid’s shoulder, “nothing worthwhile in life is free or easy, even in spiritual matters. The amazing pleasure you felt when serving God with minimal effort was like Gods free appetizer. But now that you have had a taste and know how amazing the dish that God is serving is, it is time to put in more effort.”
This week’s Parsha tells us about the details and the building of The Mishkan, and in particular that the materials for building the Mishkan should not be bought from Home Depot, rather they should come from “any person whose heart inspires him” to give. (25:2)
We know that in the end of the day everything in this world from a grain of sand to a diamond belongs to God. Yet, here God wants us to give to Him, which is so far from what we always ask for in our tefillos. We are always asking, begging, God for money, for health, for happiness, but how often are we really asking for an opportunity to give back to God? We are told in Pirkei Avos not to serve God in order to get a reward out of it. So do we give free appetizers to God, while He makes us pay for our spiritual food? In truth this is not the case, for God already owns the “Appetizer”. Rather what we do give to Hashem constantly is our display of willingness to give Him our Avodah, regardless of what we may get out of it. Our willingness is something we must work on our own to develop, we can give and give but if we don’t mean it then we don’t end up giving a thing. It’s like a child buying a birthday present for his father that he purchased with his father’s money. The father already had the money so in the end of the day the child’s gift was not the tie he got his father it was his desire to give back to his father whom he loves so much. All that we have is from Hashem, and all that we give is Gods, so our work is to give with meaning, not to mumble our whole davening, or drool on our Gemara. If we work to be inspired when we daven, learn, or do a mitzvah we are bringing a gift to our Father in Heaven and even if the gift was already His, He loves us because we are the ones who wanted to give. The ones who were inspired to serve Him.
It is one thing to serve God, it is much greater to want to serve Him as well.

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