The human contribution is the essential ingredient. It is only in the giving of oneself to others that we truly live. -Ethel Percy Andrus
The Jewish nation has been freed from Egypt; they’ve received the Torah with God’s Revelation at Mount Sinai. Now, at the foot of the mountain, they start their next grand task, the building of the Tabernacle with all its sacred objects, including the altars, the Candelabrum, the Showbread Table and in the inner sanctum, in the Holy of Holies, the Ark containing the Tablets of the Law.
However, to build this Tabernacle with its array of special items, materials are needed. And that’s how this week’s Torah reading starts off. God instructs Moses to ask for donations (this is the original synagogue fundraiser).
God tells Moses:
“And you will take for Me a contribution, from every person whose heart so moves him, you shall take My contribution.”
The Chidushei HaRim on Exodus 25:2 notes the possessive language of “take,” “for Me,” and “My.” He explains that God is saying a few things in this verse. The first part is that a person needs to “take” themselves out of their mundane matters of this world. God is saying you need to take yourselves away from your narrow, personal, selfish concerns and dedicate yourselves “for Me.” Only a person whose heart moves him to contribute can really dedicate themselves to God. There is little room for God in the selfish man’s heart.
However, the Chidushei HaRim’s deeper point is that the truth is that everything we contribute to God is already His. All of creation, everything in it, ourselves, our possessions, our abilities, our time, are all from Him. When we give to Him, we are giving Him what is His. Any illusions we have that something, anything, belongs to us, is false and misleading. God has given us of His bounty, of His blessings, in part, to see how we use them. How do we use our gifts and blessings? Do we hoard? Do we keep it to ourselves? Do we only think of ourselves? Or do we think of a greater purpose, be it family, community, those that are more needy or disadvantaged?
Drawing on God’s blessings and participating in the divine cyclical chain of giving is a privilege which can be continuously improved, strengthened and renewed.
May we find the most effective uses for the bounty God gives us.
To the start of two months of Adar in this Jewish leap year. May they usher in greater joy.