How to Get the Gift of Giving

After depicting what the Mishkan should look like in theory throughout the last three Parshiyot, the Torah now describes how it actually happened in practice. Vayakhel and Pekudei therefore use more detailed verbiage as to the actions taken at each step of the building process. But for one vessel in particular, it would seem that there is an extra detail, one the Torah could presumably have done without: “And [Moshe] took and placed the [Tablets] in the Ark, placed the poles on the Ark, and placed the covering upon the Ark” (40:20). While the verb used for the poles and the covering was simply “he placed”, for the Tablets themselves, which were housed inside the Ark, Moshe “took and placed”. It seems like a simple addition, but isn’t it an obvious fact? Why do we need to know that Moshe “took” the Tablets first? Just tell us that “he placed them”- and we would clearly know that he took them first (like it says by the poles and covering)!


It could be, based on this nuance, that the “taking” by Moshe when he placed the Tablets in the Ark was not referring to taking the Tablets themselves. The Gemara (Kiddushin 7a) tells us that certain gifts can actually act as acquisitions for the gifter because of the benefit one gets when giving a gift. Rabbi Shlomo Kluger explains in his book Imrei Shefer that as opposed to all of the other vessels, Moshe received immense satisfaction from the honor of placing the holy Tablets into the Ark. This “reception” is alluded to by the verse saying “He took and placed the Tablets”.


And so it is with many important things we do. Often we believe activities to be mundane, or even a sacrifice on our part, but in truth we receive a lot back in return, if not more. but there is one big caveat to this concept. As implied in the verse and in the Gemara cited above, this “receiving” only occurs when the perception of the giver is in line with the value of the gift. For Moshe, he understood and appreciated the importance of the Tablets, he knew everything that went into them -physically and spiritually. It was therefore, for him, a “taking” when he placed them in the Ark. For us as well, the gifts we give can of course be rewarding; they can produce immense satisfaction. But that will only be the case if we truly value the gift we’re giving. The act of giving is not magically rewarding depending on the gift; it’s only rewarding with the right perspective of the giver. If we truly value and appreciate the charity we give to people or institutions, or the education we provide for friends or family, or the prayers that we give to Gd, then we will feel satisfied by our giving. If, however, we give to others not because we value it, but because of other, ulterior motives, then of course it won’t be rewarding, and you may even grow resentful of a friend, family-member, or even Hashem. If you do, however, value the cause, then you will truly “receive” the gift of giving.