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Sunday, December 10, 2006

Vayeishev, 37:22. L’maan hatzil osso miyadam. Putting the Donor's Name on Ritual Objects

Benefactors donate items to Shuls and Batei Medrash, which are intended to beautify and glorify our places of Tefillah and Torah. For example, people donate Sifrei Torah, or the Paroches on the Aron Kodesh. And, to our bemusement, in middle of that beautiful thing, is a lengthy description of who donated it and why they donated it. We learn that they gave it for their birthday, or in honor of their anniversary, or whatever private motivation that they choose to record in shining letters. It often strikes us as incongruous that while the ostensible motive of the donor is to glorify Hashem, it seems that they are equally motivated by their desire to show off their munificence and perpetuate their own glory. As usual, this attitude does conclusively prove one thing, and that is Daas Baal Habayis Hepech Daas Torah, that where we think we are standing up for the honor of the Torah, in fact we are just venting ignorant feelings of prejudice and jealousy. The Rashba addresses this issue in his Responsa.

The Tshuvos HaRashba in 981 brings a rayah from this passuk that when a person does a mitzvah, it is proper to publicize that he did it and why he did it. The Torah sees fit to interrupt the narrative of the sale of Yosef to note that Reuven was purely motivated and that he intended to save Yosef. As cited by the Torah Temimoh here, the Rashba then says, and the Rama in YD 249:13 paskens, that one who dedicates an object to tzedakah may write his name on it, and the community cannot interfere with this prerogative. So, all those porochos and things that have a gantzeh megillah about who donated it and why, might look like they aggrandize the donor at the expense of the beauty of the donated object, but the Rashba and the Rama say it’s fine. The truth is, these inscriptions can also be seen as beautiful in themselves, since they give voice to and demonstrate the donor’s love and respect for the davar shebikdushah and his desire to be associated with them.  As LkwdGuy put it, " while some choose to mark anniversaries with eternity bands, these donors chose to mark theirs with something truly eternal."  Beautifully said.


yehuda said...

Where is the mekor of the expression 'daas baal habatim hepech daas torah'?

Barzilai said...

From the Mahari Weil, שו"ת מהר"י ווייל סוף סימן קמ"ו, הובא בסמ"ע סימן ג' ס"ק י"ג
פסקי בעלי בתים ופסקי לומדים שני הפכים הם
I've also seen it with "seichel baalei batim" and "daas baalei batim". Eilu ve'eilu, of course.