A Generous Heart

This week’s Torah portion is all about gifts. When we meet our Israelites, they’ve escaped Egypt and are in the wilderness. They’re figuring out the groove of their new life, and God gives them a task. God says to Moses: 

דַּבֵּר֙ אֶל־בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל וְיִקְחוּ־לִ֖י תְּרוּמָ֑ה מֵאֵ֤ת כָּל־אִישׁ֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר יִדְּבֶ֣נּוּ לִבּ֔וֹ תִּקְח֖וּ אֶת־תְּרוּמָתִֽי׃

“Speak to the Israelites, telling them to bring me gifts. From each person whose heart is so moved, bring gifts to me.” 

And then God describes the gifts that God wants: gold, silver, fine linens, and oils… God has expensive taste!  These are the types of gifts that we save up for, and give on big occasions, or that we account for as we write our wills. 

God wants these gifts in order to create a mikdash, a sanctuary. The mikdash is a place of supreme holiness, Rashi tells us. This holy place will be God’s house.  

It’s both hard and easy to imagine giving this type of gift.  Giving can be easy when a friend or family member is raising money for cancer research, or engaging in social action, or some cause that is meaningful to us. Or giving can be easy because we simply like the person who asked us. In other words, when we feel connected to one another, and a larger sacred mission, our hearts are moved, and we open our hands to give.  

Yet this feeling of connection is not a given, and even when we do feel connected, it doesn’t always mean that giving is easy. Sometimes, we know that it’s the right thing to give, and yet it can be painful to part ways with our hard-earned money, or with precious items.  

Our sage Kohelet (Ecclesiastes) writes about what we do with our money. Kohelet teaches that hoarding money is “l’ra’ato” – for our own misfortune. Not only that, he says the money that we own here and now – is just in the here and now.  “A person must depart just as they came, – as one comes out of their mother’s womb, so must we depart, naked as they came…”  While Kohelet doesn’t specify that we should give all our money or wealth away, he does indicate that we don’t have to deny ourselves the pleasure of enjoying it.  

Perhaps, the greatest pleasures are those which are shared. God doesn’t want to dwell in the mishkan because it’s a beautiful space, but because it was constructed from the offerings of our hearts. And while the mishkan is “God’s house,” it’s also where the Israelites would gather. This is what the Bridge to the Future campaign at JCP is all about: when we give from our hearts, we cultivate our generosity as a community. We create beauty – not only in the physical spaces where we gather, but also in our souls.  

Let’s practice this generosity together, giving the gifts that come from our hearts.

Shabbat shalom,