15 Tammuz 5759
From the Desk of: Rabbi Bezalel Borstein
The concept of tzarchei tzibbur is an important theme in Judaism. Chazal define tzarchei tzibbur to include:
1) the gashmius of a city – fixing roads, putting down telephone lines, building sewers, collecting garbage, etc.
2) the ruchnius of a city – giving Psak Din, helping to mend rifts between people, helping to unite different segments of society, etc.
Anyone involved in tzarchei tzibbur is promised tremendous s’char. At the end of the Y’kum Purkan prayer we say (“V’chol mi she-oskim…”)
Amazing!!! We are promised that such a person will be physically healthy “v’yasir mehem machala, v’yirpa l’chol gufam.” He will be spiritually healthy “v’yislach l’chol avonam”!! And to top it all off, he will be successful as well – “v’yishlach bracha l’chol ma’aseh yideihem.”
SO WHAT IS SO DIFFICULT?! Anyone can do it!! Don’t we all do tzarchei tzibbur? Doesn’t the doctor help his patients, doesn’t the lawyer defend his clients, doesn’t the computer whiz make new products that make the lives of all the inhabitants of the city just a little easier? Isn’t that tzarchei tzibbur??
The question is strengthened by a particular act of the Nisi’im. When the people were asked to give terumos to the Mishkan, the Nisi’im, as the leaders of the people, were naturally expected to make their donations first. Instead they declared “mah shemichasrim hatzibbur anu mashlimim.” We won’t give any money now, but whatever money is neeed at the end we will fill in. But as it happenned, there were no gaps!!! Klall Yisrael brought everything needed!!!
Rashi, commenting on the pasuk in Vayikra 38:27, states that the reason the word Nisi’im is written without a “yud” in the middle of the word and at the end, is to highlight this hesitation. The Avnei Ha’Eizel explains that the “yud” is a sign of plural (ex: it makes “gadlam” into “gedolim”). The “yud” is taken away from the Nisi’im because they didn’t share with the rabbim – they didn’t become part of the whole. They were punished with the missing “yud” in their name to show that as mmbers of Klall Yisrael and certainly as leaders – they have to participate in the joy and the happiness of the people as well as their pain, sufferings, and burdens.
But where did the Nisi’im fail? They certainly were involved in tzarchei tzibbur!! Why is there such disapproval for their slight hesitation???
One possible answer can be based on a Yerushalmi in Brachos. The gemara, in commenting on the mishna that states:
Ein omdim l’hispallel ela m’toch koved rosh. Lo ya’amod adam l’hispallel lo m’toch sicha v’lo m’toch devarim beteilim ela m’toch devarim shel Torah. (Perek 8, Halacha 1)
Before we begin to daven there should be some preparation time. The mishna defines this as koved rosh and the gemara tells us that koved rosh means Torah. The gemara then discusses what type of Torah is appropriate and comes to the conclusion that Torah means din shel halacha. Rav Yirmiya adds:
Ha’osek b’tzarchei tzibbur k’osek b’divrei Torah
One who works with the tzibbur before tefilla, has prepared himself as properly as the one who learns Torah!! According to Rav Yirmiya, it would appear, that an appropriate introduction to tefilla is fixing the roads or collecting the garbage! What does Rav Yirmiya mean? How does tzarchei tzibbur help me prepare for tefilla?
The Maharal explains that it is possible to work for the tzibbur for a variety of reasons.
-to make a lot of money
-to get kavod
-to avoid boredom
But acts done for these reasons says the Maharal, although the tzibbur may benefit from them are still labeled as
Rav Yirmiya is referring to an act of tzarchei tzibbur done in a specific manner – l’shem shamayim – with the proper intentions. Such an act is an appropriate preface for tefilla because it can bring a person extremely close to Hashem. If done l’shem shamayim, even fixing a road becomes a good way to prepare for communicating with my Creator.
If we look carefully again at the end of the “Y’kum Purkan” prayer, we may find this concept as well. The tefilla states, “v’chol mi she’oskim b’tzarchei tzibbur be’emunah.” It’s not for tzarchei tzibbur alone that we are promised these tremendous rewards. But only when it’s done be’emunah!! It has to be done l’shem shamayim!! Then I’m promised health, then I’m promised forgiveness, then I’m assured of success.
Perhaps this is the reason for the disapproval cite by Chazal of the act of the Nisi’im. Certainly they were involved in tzarchei tzibbur. Certainly on a daily basis they dealt with the problems of their comunity. But by hesitating to donate to the Mishkan, it indicated that in some small way the act was not one at the proper level – l’shem shamayim – that is to be expected of the Nisi’im.
Everyone will be involved in tzarchei tzibbur. No matter what profession in life, it somehow involved other people. The same act, with the same results can be defined as tzarchei tzibbur or tzarchei yachid. It is simply dependent on our mindset.