“Everyone who is generous of heart brought armband and nose-ring and finger-ring and kumaz. All sorts of gold ornaments. Every man who raised up an offering of gold to Hashem.” (Shemos 35:22)
The Torah tells us about offerings given in two venues: first, those generous of heart and then, those people who waved the gold in front of Hashem. The Chasam Sofer explains that these two “waves” of gifts differed due to the diverse attitudes in service of Hashem.
There is a story told about the Kotzker Rebbe: A chosid came to visit him and the Rebbe asked the Chosid “What is your name?” The Chosid replied “My name is Avraham.” The Rebbe asked him, “If you would have a choice to change places with Avraham Avinu, would you do so?” The chosid was surprised by such a simple question, and answered “Of course I would!” To that the Rebbe responded, “Who would gain anything out of that? Either way there would just be one Avraham Avinu. What is the difference to Hashem if it is you or him?”
Meaning, that at first glance the chosid thinks that he is doing Hashem a favor with his being upgraded to Avraham Avinu. But, in reality, all that is happening is that the chosid gets a better deal, not that the service of Hashem globally is being enhanced.
Sometimes we are faced with a mitzvah and we would really like to do it and there is someone else who has an equal claim on doing this mitzvah. I will use, for example, someone who has yahrzeit for a parent and would like to daven from the amud to honor and give merit to his parent. There is another person who also has yahrzeit on this same day, and he too would like to daven from the amud. Each one is vying to do the right thing and at this point one must ask himself “Is this about me, my father, or Hashem?” There will only be one chazan, and to Hashem it could very well be that there is no difference which person will be the chazan. If one of them were to step back and allow the other to daven from the amud, it probably will be with great pain and sacrifice, but there is no real glory in that selfless act. Whereas the person who is the chazan, it is clear to everyone his meticulousness in honoring his parent, and the merits that he brought for his father by sanctifying Hashem’s name in davening from the amud. We don’t know for sure, but the person who gave up the amud is possibly doing the will of Hashem on a greater level.
The Chasam Sofer tells us that those ornaments which were used in the service of humans (earrings, nose-rings, etc.) could not be used in a main vessel of holiness, but instead only in things with secondary holiness. This meant that the donors of these items would not be able to boast that their donations were used for the prominent vessels in the tabernacle. Therefore, the verse reads as follows: Those who are generous of heart (meaning that they just wanted to do the mitzvah l’sheim Shamayim), to them it was not important what item would be fashioned from their donation. Whatever is Hashem’s will, is fine with them because they were not trying to advance themselves. Whereas the second group of people, who waved their gold and silver, made sure that everyone was aware of their generous donation, which were used for the prominent vessels.
The Chasam Sofer does not come out and explicitly say who gets more of a reward in the end. However, it seems to me quite obvious that the person who is more selfless has indeed done more in his service of Hashem.
At times like this when people are in a hoarding mode, thinking about others who are also the children of Hashem, may entail more sacrifice than at other times. But which do you think Hashem would prefer: That you have items hidden away just in case…, or that you share with someone who needs it here and now?