| Parshah |

Collector’s Item

Hashem will illuminate the Jewish People by allowing His radiance to come upon us


“In the Ohel Moed, outside the curtain that is front of the Eidus [the Aron]…” (Shemos 27:21)


The proper location of the Menorah should’ve been inside the Kodesh Hakodoshim, alongside the Aron. It was, however, placed outside of the paroches — to teach us that Hashem doesn’t need our light.
Why would we think that Hashem needs our light? (Rabbi Yosef Kalatzky, Beyond Pshat)

Every morning, Shloime and I wait outside for his school bus. Across the street are two chadarim, one litvish and one chassidish, and we enjoy watching the action as the boys arrive at school. Several months ago, a new and incongruous player entered the scene.

Pacing the sidewalk in front of the two schools was an older man with a gray beard, wearing a long frock and a black koppel with gold bells around its brim. He was holding a large metal pushke and singing “Toras Hashem Temimah” loudly as he jiggled the pushke to the rhythm.

Shloime’s eyes opened wide and I myself was caught feeling like I’d entered into Act Two of a play without knowing who the players were. Who was this guy collecting for? How did he end up on our dead-end street in front of two schools? Was he affiliated with either of them? Did the schools allow it?

My thoughts were racing. My main question: Didn’t anyone else think this whole scenario was odd? Boys from both schools skipped over to him and dropped coins into his pushke. Parents lifted preschoolers to deposit a coin. A mother with her whole family stopped to put in coins.

It seemed like only I hadn’t gotten the fundraising message.

One of the 13 tenets of Jewish belief is that there is reward and punishment based on adherence to the Torah.
With this system, one may think that perhaps the Jewish People dictate how Hashem will interact with the world. If we keep the Torah, there’ll be rain; if not, drought.
But this understanding is incorrect. Hashem has the ability and power to act and respond to the behavior of the Jewish People as He chooses. Even if a punishment is deserved, He may choose to demonstrate mercy. Hashem established the system to give us the opportunity to perfect ourselves. But because Hashem is not limited or bound in any context, He can “supersede” the system when He chooses.

A few mornings later, as we watched the now-familiar singing, the man spotted us and crossed the street to us. I panicked. I hadn’t thought to bring down a coin to put in the pushke. But as he approached Shloime, I saw that in his other hand he held a box full of ten agurot coins. The man gestured to Shloime to take a coin and put it in his pushke! Shloime was thrilled. Singing his gratitude, the man jingled his pushke and recrossed the street.

This man offered money… to deposit money? I was determined to find out what was going on.

Based on this, one might have assumed that if the Menorah were placed within the Kodesh Hakodoshim, Hashem needed our flame, as if we were dictating Hashem’s interaction with us by lighting the Menorah. The Menorah was therefore placed outside to clearly demonstrate that Hashem doesn’t need our light. He’s perfect in the most absolute sense and doesn’t need anything.
The Kohein Gadol lit the Menorah to acknowledge His Presence, to revere Him. With that acknowledgment, Hashem will illuminate the Jewish People by allowing His radiance to come upon us.

Find out I did. And while it didn’t come close to the wild scenarios I’d enacted in my imagination (he was childless and wanted to have interaction with children), the true story was pretty powerful.

The man was a preschool rebbi in one of the schools (hence the administrative permission to collect money). The boys all knew him and loved him (the bells on his hat only made him more fun). He was currently in the process of writing a sefer Torah in memory of his father. And he’d decided to take some of the money earmarked for this project, change it to small change, and let the cheder children all take part of this special mitzvah. He didn’t need their money, he wanted them to have the connection.

Just one of those powerful anecdotes you collect along the way.


 (Originally featured in Family First, Issue 780)

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