Rabbi Chaim of Volozhin was well-known throughout the Jewish World for his Torah scholarship, but in addition all those who lived in the area appreciated his great insight. He would often be called upon to smooth the differences between the two parties of a quarrel.

Among the contributors was a villager, who gave generously and with a willing heart.

It happened that when R' Chaim founded the yeshiva of Volozhin, he delegated a man to raise money for its maintenance. Among the contributors was a villager, who gave generously and with a willing heart.

With time the sum of monies which had been collected dwindled and the collector was forced to travel and gather more funds. Before he set out on his trip, he requested a new set of fine clothes, so as to make a good impression upon his prospective contributors. A suit was ordered. When it was ready, the fundraiser also requested a horse and carriage. This, he said, would save him much time, and would also make a fine impression on people. This, too, was granted.

The yeshiva representative left Volozhin looking like a new man, like a prosperous person himself. In time, he paid a visit to the villager who had previously given generously. To his great surprise, the man refused to give him a penny this time. The collector tried all kinds of arguments but nothing helped. The man kept his purse strings tightly shut and was very cold towards him.

Terribly disappointed, the fundraiser returned to R' Chaim.

Terribly disappointed, the fundraiser returned to R' Chaim and told him what happened. R' Chaim listened and decided to pay the villager a visit.

The man received the rosh yeshivah with the honor and respect that was his due. After the usual pleasantries, R' Chaim finally came to the point of his visit. "Why have you stopped supporting the Volozhiner yeshiva?" he asked.

The villager explained: "I will tell you the truth, Rebbe. Up to now, I naively thought that the money I gave went directly towards supporting the yeshiva itself and its needy students. For that I gave willingly, for I greatly respect Torah study and certainly wish to have a portion in it. But when your fundraiser came this time, all decked out in a fancy tailored suit and a splendid carriage, I worried that the money I gave would be going towards support of these unnecessary trappings. I do not want my money wasted on such frills."

R' Chaim replied, "You have a point, my friend. But I would like you to see things in their true light. Surely you are familiar with the verse that says of Bezalel, who supervised the work of the Mishkan ("Tabernacle"): ‘I filled him with the spirit of G‑d, with knowledge, intelligence and wisdom to know….to do creative work…in gold and silver and copper.' One would assume that all the contributors for the Mishkan gave their contributions for the Holy of Holies. But, in fact, the gifts were used for other purposes as well. It was Betzalel's special genius to intuitively know the inner thoughts and intentions of each donor and to measure his sincerity. He was able to know whether a donor gave his offer purely for the sake of Heaven, without secondary thoughts of honor and prestige, and to use the gifts accordingly.

"When a person gave his offering with pure intention, to enhance the House of G‑d, then Bezalel used the gold and silver for the Holy of Holies. If, however, a person had additional thoughts, and thought the gifts would make him important in the eyes of others, then they were used for other parts of the Mishkan.

"The same applies here," R' Chaim explained. "The money that you give is intended to support Torah directly. Your intentions and thoughts are pure, for Heaven's sake alone. Rest assured that it goes for that purpose alone. There are others who give to the yeshiva both for the sake of Torah and for their good name, for their reputation. Their money goes to keep up appearances too, for the magnificent coach and finely tailored clothing of our representative, which is also important in its own right. Those who only give to keep up their own good name — their money goes for the horse's fodder and the repair and upkeep of the coach."

And he gave R' Chaim his donation with renewed joy.

The villager was all smiles. "Oh! Rebbe! How glad I am that you explained this to me. To tell the truth, it hurt me very much to have to refuse the collector for the yeshiva. Now that you assure me that my money will go solely for supporting Torah study, I feel so much better."

And he gave R' Chaim his donation with renewed joy.

[Connection to Weekly reading: gold and silver donations]

Adapted from Tales of Tzaddikim by G. Matov (Mesorah)

Biographical note:
Rabbi Chaim of Volozhin (1749- 14 Sivan 1821) was the outstanding disciple of the Vilna Gaon and the founder of the Volozhin Yeshiva in 1802, one of the most important and influential Lithuanian Torah institutions. Reb Chaim’s esoteric philosophy is expounded in his Nefesh HaChaim.

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