Rabbi Yaakov Menken
"And they shall make a Temple for Me, and I will dwell among them..." [25:8]
In the (Medrash) Pesikta, it records that when G-d said this, Moshe
trembled. He thought to himself, "how is it possible to build a house for
G-d, Who encompasses and transcends all the heavens?" And G-d replied,
reassuring him, "not by my standards, but in accordance with their
abilities: twenty boards in the North..."
Then, when G-d began to discuss the sacrifices, Moshe said to himself,
"would all the animals in the world provide even a single appropriate
sacrifice?" And G-d replied, reassuring him again, "not as you imagine, but
a single sheep in the morning..." And when G-d began to discuss the annual
gift to the Temple, "each person in redemption for his soul," Moshe again
thought, "how could a person ever give enough to redeem himself?" And once
more, G-d replied, "not as you imagine, but one-half Shekel according to
the sanctified Shekel measure..."
The Chofetz Chaim derives a profound, yet simple lesson from this Medrash:
G-d does not demand the impossible, or the unreasonable. Every person is
obligated to do only that which he or she can. As King Solomon said in
Kohelet (Ecclesiastes) 9:10, "All that you find within your ability to do,
act upon it..." which is to say, only that which is within your ability. We
must do only that which has been placed upon us.
Every person is obligated to study, but according to one's abilities -- be
that Mishna, Talmud, Ethics or Law. G-d does not expect every person to sit
down and learn like a great scholar. Similarly, a person is obligated to
give charity according to his or her wealth. A wealthy person cannot give
only a small amount and claim to have fulfilled his or her obligation;
neither should a poor person give away everything trying to meet the
standards of the rich.
One of the great teachings of our Sages is that "tafasta merubah lo
tafasta" -- when one tries to grab everything, he can come away with
nothing. In our case, a person could become discouraged, worrying that it
is impossible to do everything -- and then do nothing at all. On the
contrary: we must do everything that we can, for what we _can_ do is our
Rabbi Yaakov Menken
Text Copyright © 2002 Project Genesis, Inc.
The author is the Director of Project Genesis.