Creating Holy Spaces
This week we being to read about the construction of the Mishkan (or tabernacle), the portable Temple that the Children of Israel used during the 40 years they wandered in the desert. The description spans four parashot –Terumah and Tetzaveh contain the instructions, and Vayak’hel and Pekudei describe the implementation. At the very beginning of Terumah, the parasha elaborates on how donations were solicited for the necessary materials, and the commentators notice something interesting:
The opening sentence is uniquely worded: “Speak to the Children of Israel, that they should take to me (veyik’ḥu li) a donation; from each person whose heart volunteers them, take my donation.” (Ex 25:2). It seems that a more appropriate verb would have been ‘give’ me a donation or ‘bring’ me a donation; ‘take’ implies that the taker is the beneficiary.
The lesson is almost obvious, though it’s worthwhile restating it: When one donates to a good cause, the person donating benefits as much as the recipient. Donating helps an individual fulfill their Godly mission on Earth- to be kind and benevolent. Donations create a society in which it is healthy and pleasurable for people to live. And in the case of a community need, such as a synagogue, donating directly benefits the donor too because their generosity contributes towards a decent place for them to gather and pray.
We must also remember that one doesn’t need wealth to be generous and charitable. Donating one’s time, talents, and expertise can be just as valuable as donating funds. Smiling, doing a favour, making someone feel welcome – these are acts of charity too.
Just remember: the Hebrew word for charity is tzedaka, literally meaning ‘justice’. Tzedaka is not simply kindness, it is something we are meant to do.
Hot tip: Watch for the appearance of a narwhal in this week’s parasha!