What a person gives away seems forever lost. The Torah, in cryptic
fashion, uses proper nouns and pronouns in a mysterious medley that teaches
us a little about real property, about what you give and what one really
has. The Torah tells us about tithing. "And every portion from any of the
holies that the Children of Israel bring to the Kohen shall be his. A
man's holies shall be his, and what a man gives to the Kohen shall be
his." What the Torah seems to tell us is that the donor has no further
right to item given to the Kohen. So why not say it clearly? "What a man
gives to the Kohen belongs to the Kohen." Obviously, there is a dual
reference attached to the pronoun. What lies within that double allusion?
Rabbi Betzalel Zolty, Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem, of blessed memory, related
the following story:
The Rosh Yeshiva of Slobodka Yeshiva, Rabbi Moshe Mordechai Epstein was in
America in 1924, raising much-needed funds for his Yeshiva. During his
visit, he received an urgent telegram. The Lithuanian authorities were
going to conscript the Slobodka students into the army. Rabbi Nosson Zvi
Finkel, the founder and Dean of the Yeshiva, made a decision to open a
branch of Slobodka Yeshiva in the ancient city of Chevron in Eretz
Israel. He would send 150 students to Palestine to establish the Yeshiva,
and in this way free them from service in the apostatizing, ruthless
Lithuanian army. That monumental undertaking would require a sum of
$25,000 to transport, house, and establish the Yeshiva.
Rabbi Epstein was put to the task. He discussed the program with a dear
friend of the Yeshiva, Mr. Schiff, who immediately decided to
contribute the massive sum in its entirety.
Years later, in the early 1930s, the tide turned for Mr. Schiff. With the
crash of the stock market, and plummeting real estate prices, it took only
a few months before he was forced out of his own apartment, and was
relegated to the cellar of a building that was once his, existing on meager
At the same time, the health of Rabbi Epstein was failing, and he no longer
had the strength to travel. His son-in-law, Rabbi Yechezkel Sarna, made the
trip to America, in his stead, to raise funds for the Slobodka Yeshiva. He
did not know of Mr. Schiff's situation until the man got up to speak at a
parlor meeting on behalf of the Yeshiva.
"My dear friends," he began. "I do not wish my business misfortunes on
anyone. I invested literally millions of dollars in all sorts of
businesses, and they all failed. I have absolutely nothing to show for
them. But there is one investment I made that continues to bear fruit. I
gave $25,000 to establish a Yeshiva in Chevron, and that investment is the
best one I ever made. One must know where to invest."
When Rabbi Sarna, heard that Mr. Schiff was literally bankrupt, he cabled
Rabbi Epstein, who quickly responded to arrange to give him a $5,000 loan,
in order to get him back on his feet and begin doing business
again. Through some generous benefactors, Rabbi Sarna got a hold of the
cash and went directly to the basement apartment where Mr. Schiff now
resided. He explained to him that Rabbi Epstein insisted he take this
money as a loan.
Mr. Schiff jumped up in horror, "What do you want from my life? The only
money I have left is the $25,000 that I gave the Yeshiva. Do you want to
take that from me as well?"
In its mystical manner, the Torah teaches us the power of the eternal gift
. "A man's holies shall be his, and what a man gives to the Kohen shall be
his." We invest much in this world. We work. We buy. We build. We
spend. But what do we really have? At the end of the hopefully long day,
we call life, what can we say is eternally ours? Stocks crash, and
buildings crumble. How real is our estate?
The Torah tells us, what the man gives to the Kohen shall be his. It does
not say, "... will belong to the Kohen. It says, it shall be his!
What we invest in the eternity of spirituality, in order to proliferate
Hashem's eternal message, will never be relinquished. For what we invest
for eternity, will be eternally invested. It shall always remain ours.
Dedicated in memory of Irving I. Adelsberg by the Adelsberg Family -- Reb
Yitzchok Isaac ben R' Gedalia o"h 12 Sivan
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