The end of this week’s Torah portion of Re’eh discusses the Yomim Tovim of Pesach, Shavuos, and Sukkos. In fact, this section is read on the last day of Yom Tov in exile.
While speaking about Shavuos the Torah writes, “Then you shall observe the festival of Shavuos for Hashem, your G-D; the voluntary offerings that you give should be commensurate with how much Hashem, your G-D, will have blessed you” (Devarim 16:10). By the Chag of Sukkos, in pasuk 17, the Torah concludes, “Everyone according to what he can give, according to the blessing that Hashem, your G-D, gives you.”
The Ralbag learns from these pesukim that it is appropriate for all people to limit their expenses according to what they have earned, in order so that they can consistently spend for these particular mitzvos. Without this attitude one might throw away all his earnings in one shot and be left with nothing. For this the Torah says, “commensurate with how much Hashem, your G-D, will have blessed you” and it also says, “Everyone according to what he can give, according to the blessing that Hashem, your G-D, gives you.” (Click here for Hebrew text.)
Shavuos was a time of bringing the bikkurim, first fruits, to the Beis Hamikdash. It was a time of great celebration and elaborate decorations for this gift to Hashem. Sukkos, even today, has the mitzvos of sukkah, lulav and esrog where one has a chance to fulfill many mitzvos in the most beautiful and exquisite way. If a person internalizes the importance of performing mitzvos with the enhanced mitzva of beautifying the mitzva, then without a doubt there would be an urge and a push to spend a lot of money to ensure the mitzvah is done properly in the most tremendous way possible. Why not take out a loan and deal with paying it back later?!
For all that Hashem does for us every moment of our lives, the least we can do is go all-out in doing His will and performing His mitzvos. One would think it is a matter of bitachon, trust and faith in Hashem, to spend whatever you feel appropriate in fulfilling mitzvos and glorifying them. Surely Hashem will give you the ability to pay back the loan in exchange of doing His service. Yet there is a gemara, in Bava Kamma 9b, that talks about this very issue and says “Hidur mitzvah ad shlish” one should only spend up to a third of his expenses and nothing more in beautifying a mitzvah. Why is this so? Why can’t we spend more money; what about bitachon that we will be able to pay it all and get more money to live in the future?
However, we see from this Ralbag that the opposite is true, proper bitachon, trust and faith in Hashem, dictates that one should have the proper bitachon that what Hashem has given him or her to spend on a mitzvah is the blessing one is deserving from Hashem, and one must use it and perform it wisely.
It’s not so easy to know exactly how much to spend and not spend in the performance of mitzvos or really anything in life, but really properly serving Hashem involves taking the time to accurately calculate what is within your means to spend on performing the mitzvah at hand, making sure you don’t spend too much or too little. The effort put into calculating exactly how Hashem wants you to perform the mitzvah and accepting the blessing Hashem gave you, and the opportunity of performing the mitzvah the way which is destined for you to perform is a show of true faith and trust in Hashem.
Every person has their own potential to be fulfilled in life. Hashem expects us to live within our means when doing His will. This will facilitate a constant and consistent ability to serve Hashem properly which is our purpose in this world.
Good Shabbos and chodesh tov,
Rabbi Dovid Shmuel Milder