|Imagine hearing about a woman who works tirelessly to make sure every child in her city has access to milk for breakfast. You learn that she personally brings fresh milk to countless families every day, even in the nastiest weather. What would you think about her? We might count her among the righteous people in the city—deserving of our praise. However, if we discovered that she delivered the milk only because she was using it as a vehicle to build her recently launched food vending business, we would think differently. There is nothing wrong or immoral about that but we would no longer view her as an exceptional humanitarian. Rather, she is simply another hard-working entrepreneur trying to start a business. One’s intent says everything about a person’s actions.
The nascent Jewish nation was told to build a portable sanctuary that would travel that would be taken apart and reassembled during their years in the wilderness.
G-d spoke to Moses saying, ‘Take for Me a portion from everyone whose heart motivates him, you shall take my portion.’ (25:1-2)
“Take for Me” is the condition—the donations must be given in G-d’s Name; anything else is disqualified. Why does the Almighty need a house and a collection specifically for Him? After all, He doesn’t need anything; the only thing we can give is to allow Him to give to us. Donations weren’t given to G-d, the intent was that they were given for Him; in His honor.
One’s intentions create a reality because a person’s focus is what defines him or her. Life is not only a series of us being confronted with free will choices of right vs. wrong, but also what our intent is in doing those actions-even the good ones. Your intent will affect your behavior and what you have the ability to do. When a father takes his daughter out to dinner, she understands that he loves her and she will want to spend time with him, and her conduct throughout the evening will reflect that understanding. However, if during her summer internship, a male coworker, the one she feels uncomfortable around, invites her to the same restaurant, she will understand that he has other intentions and might turn down his invitation.
This idea is especially applicable in marriage. We react to a spouse based on how we perceive his or her intent but many times we are the ones at fault due to our own intentions, which are based on self-interest. If a husband doesn’t feel like helping, having a conversation, or watching the kids, then his intent is to protect his space. Therefore, he will interpret a request for help as “you are trying to dominate me” or “you are trying to make me feel guilty” or “you don’t understand my needs.” His intent, protecting his space, will affect his judgment and subsequent reaction.
The way you think of others will ultimately determine whether you speak with them with respect or disdain and will affect how you view what they have done to you in a more accurate way. The way one thinks about a spouse will make a difference between a good marriage and an awful one because many conflicts don’t have to do with what is going on but rather a mindset-intent. When your mindset is critical, everything is seen in a critical light. However, one whose intent is to have a safe and loving relationship will see the damage of this thinking and realize that he or she needs to learn to interpret things in a positive light, which, in most cases, is more realistic. When we realize that most of the people we interact with mean well, even though many of them are in (emotional) pain or just simply messed up.They might have their problems but, most of the time, they’re not out to get you. The more faults we find, the more we need to look introspectively and ask ourselves if, perhaps, we are the ones who need to reconsider. When we change our thoughts, we create new possibilities.Intent was the ultimate determining factor of whether a contribution would be accepted for building the portable sanctuary, the first synagogue in history. Just as we need intent when building an earthly place for G-d, so too we must be careful about our intent when building the relationships in our life. Your intent will determine not only how you think, but more importantly how you will live your life. (Sources: Ohr Yoel quoted in Growth Through Torah; Rav Yitzchak Berkowitz, Terumah 5763)