The gifts we receive

The ability of the human being to accept the gift graciously is on par with the ability to take the compliment without the immediate apologetic retort, “This the just the old thing I’ve dragged from the back of the shelf” or “I am not so attractive as the pictures suggest”. I know since I’ve been partial to both retorts myself. More so with gifts as the old “You really should not have” seems to be the family motto of so many gift-takers.

This week’s Torah portion starts with giving the gifts. “Tell the Israelite people to bring Me gifts; you shall accept gifts for Me from every person whose heart so moves him”. (Exodus 25:2). The sages teach us that the building of the Tabernacle was the atonement for the sin of the golden calf. Would not it have been more logical to impose a strict fine, to make people pay for their sin? Of course not. God’s presence among people cannot be built by force or coercion just as the gift obtained by such means is no gift at all.

Only the generosity of the spirit, the genuine manifestation of love can build a solid foundation of relationships and erect a long-lasting framework of mutual support. Thus the gifts we receive within such a setting have to be given and accepted with grace, dignity, and respect.

About the Author
Nelly Shulman is a journalist and writer currently based in Berlin. She is an author of four popular historical novels in the Russian language. She is working on the fifth novel in this series and on her first English-language novel, a historical thriller set during the Siege of Leningrad. She a Hawthornden Fellow and an alumna of the Nachum Goldmann Fellowship.
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