In this week’s parsha, Terumah, Bnei Yisrael are given the mitzvah of donating towards the building of the Mishkan. The Torah tells us “וְיִקְחוּ־לִ֖י תְּרוּמָ֑ה”, “Let them take me an offering”.
Rabbi Yosef Mordechai Leiner, the Ishbitzer Rebbe, explains in the Mei HaShiloach that this connects to the idea of placing Hashem at the forefront of our thoughts and living our lives with the constant knowledge and acknowledgement that Hashem runs the world. “Take me” means that we have a virtual sign in front of our eyes at all times that Hashem is with us and everything that happens is a result of His will and wisdom. How do we even begin to do this?
In Brachos (35a) there is a discussion about how the Earth and everything in it belongs to Hashem and really we have no right to enjoy it without permission. Our enjoyment without permission can actually become a form of theft. How do we ask permission? By recognizing that everything belongs to Hashem. Once we recognize this fact, we can partake and enjoy. For example, before we eat, we first make a bracha over a piece of food. The bracha becomes an acknowledgement that although everything belongs to Hashem, He gives it to us to use. By making a bracha, we are, in some way, actually then using that item in the service of Hashem and then it is no longer considered taking without permission.
The Ishbitzer uses this gemara to understand another question in Masechet Sanhedrin (102b)- where should a person look or focus when they are making the bracha of Hamotzi? The gemara answers: where the crust is baked the best. Why does one part of the bread cook in a better way than any other? The baker kneads all of the dough together and she places it in the oven equally. And yet, there are parts that look better to us, parts that crust over in a tastier or more beautiful way. So something that is beyond her control happens when she puts the bread in the oven. When we make the bracha, and we look at that part of the bread that somehow got a better crust than all of the other parts, we are recognizing and acknowledging Hashem’s “hand” in the bread.
What does this teach us about our service to Hashem? That we must put in our effort, we must mix all of our ingredients together, we must put the bread in the oven. But in the end, how the bread turns out is up to Hashem- not us. I can feel totally qualified for a particular job and yet not be offered the position. When I recognize that it is because Hashem has a different plan for me, I let Him into my life. I might be suddenly thrust into a situation that I feel is beyond me- but when I acknowledge that Hashem put me in that situation, I can strengthen myself that He thinks I can handle it.
I bless us all to see the “best-baked” spot on the loaf and to allow that to trigger us to remember who is really running the world.