Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Giving For All the Right Reasons

Parshat Vayakhel-Eileh Fekudei

by Rabbi Avi Billet

At the very beginning of his instructions to the people about the construction of the Mishkan, Moshe says to the people regarding their Terumah (donations), “Take from yourselves Terumah to God, all those who are giving of heart should bring the Terumah of God, gold, silver and copper.” (35:5)

Two questions come to mind. First, why are they first told to “take” Terumah, and then told to “bring” Terumah? Second, what is the difference between “Terumah to Hashem” and “Terumah of Hashem?”

Kli Yakar (35:5) explains that how Terumah is collected and subsequently processed and utilized is very much informed by the thought process of the giver.

The one who does not give from his own will is clearly not thinking the way one should be thinking which is “I’m not giving what is mine, but I am giving what already belongs to God, for all the silver and gold is His (but is merely on loan to me).” Rather, he is mistaken in his thinking, thinking that he is solely responsible for his success.

This is why it says “Take from yourselves Terumah to God.” From those who think it’s actually theirs, you have to “take it for Hashem,” thus forcibly returning it to its rightful owner.

But those who give from the heart, those who know that everything they have is a gift from the Holy One Blessed is He, those donations of precious metals fit into the phraseology of “should bring the Terumah of God.” It is essentially brought by itself because it is returning on its own to where it belongs. This is why it is called the Terumah of God, because it already belongs to God.

In 36:3, when after the people actually begin to bring their donations, the verse says “And they brought to him more pledges in the morning in the morning.” Two more questions are raised. What is the need for the word “more” (od)? And why is the word ‘baboker’ (in the morning) repeated?

“Od” (more) is the additional sign seen in the people who brought and gave their donations with joy. As the Kli Yakar explains

  1. 1. They gave of their own initiative, before the Gabbai of Collections came to collect what they had already pledged to give. 
  2.  2. When they came in the morning, they came with a bright countenance.The morning is a time when people give with a smile. 

The phrase “in the morning” is repeated, therefore, because one time represents their smiling when giving, a proverbial sunshine that accompanies a smiling countenance, and the second “baboker” was a nod to those who were punctilious to be the first to come to give in the morning.

Each of us must answer the question. Am I the type of person from whom the contribution needs to be taken from me such as through a building fund assessment, or repeated billing?

Or am I the type of person who is the true giver from the heart, the one who gives or redeems my pledge before the Gabbai of Collections comes calling. The one who gives with a smiling countenance? Who says “My money is not really mine anyway.” The one who follows the path of “bringing” – because it belongs here. It is “The Terumah of God” because it already belongs to God. Anything I use for myself is His gift to me. But I am by nature a giver, returning these funds to a place that helps service my needs visavis my Creator – to my shul?

And how does one do this? Sometimes it’s hard to write out a check for a few hundred dollars. For $1000 or more. We all have our budgets, our operating expenses, etc.

Around 8 years ago I created a separate checking account for giving, and I siphon off 10% of all “money in” to that account. Then it’s not mine anymore. I can give it to the indigent, to the needy, to the organizations I wish to support, without batting an eye.

It’s not my money! I am merely its distributor. It is the Terumah of God.

This kind of siphoning and giving should be done “in the morning in the morning,” in other words, as soon as possible after the money comes in.

Whatever cause you support, a shul, a school, and organization, be the first to give, and give with a smile. We all only benefit from giving when we can, what we can afford, and giving often.

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