Parshat Terumah: The Giving Heart

Our Parsha begins this week with the directive of giving. In Sh'mot, Perek 25, Pasuk 2:

דַּבֵּר אֶל-בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל, וְיִקְחוּ-לִי תְּרוּמָה: מֵאֵת כָּל-אִישׁ אֲשֶׁר יִדְּבֶנּוּ לִבּוֹ, תִּקְחוּ אֶת-תְּרוּמָתִי.

Speak unto the children of Israel, that they should take for me donations; of every man whose heart makes him willing you should take my donation. With these words, Hashem instructs Moshe to begin the preparations for building the Mishkan by explaning what types of donations need to be collected. Interestingly, the rest of this parsha has within it detail after detail relating to the construction of the Mishkan and the vessels that will be necesssary for its function. The opening, however, is non-specific and there seems to be a contradiction in the instruction by Hashem. First, Moshe is commanded to tell Bnei Yisrael to donate. Then, Hashem tells Moshe that these funds for will come from every person whose heart motivates him to donate:

מֵאֵת כָּל-אִישׁ אֲשֶׁר יִדְּבֶנּוּ לִבּוֹ

Rashi will explain that all the objects to be donated to the Mishkan will come from voluntary gifts, each person giving as each person's heart stirred them. Others, such as the Abrabanel, comment that donations to the Mishkan were obligatory. That even though the Mishkan could have been funded by a few large donors, Hashem wanted each member of Bnei Yisrael to donate to be able to participate in the Mishkan and be able to feel that they were a part of the building of this communal center for the people. What is the ideal way for community give and build its central institutions? Should there be obligatory dues to ensure that an entire community is invested in institutions? Or, do we work off of an entirely voluntary model to ensure that all donation are given with a full heart - where there is no pressure or feelings of resentment? This struggle between how we bring in donations is seen in pasuk bet alone. There is an internal struggle between these conflicting values: Bnei Yisrael are told to build the Mishkan, but, it must come from the heart. Each person must give that which they are able and / or motivated to give. When requesting Tzedakah, the same concerns exist. It is an obligation to give Tzedakah. However, with this model in place, we are given the opportunity to direct our giving in a place which moves us. There are so many ways we can give of our resources and our time. Be it assisting in feeding those in need, helping to collect clothing for those especially in the harsh months of winter, volunteering to package care packages for our US troops, raising money for bullet proof vests for Israeli soldiers, committing ourselves to giving to the environment where we become more sensitive and responsible for our world, providing funds for our shuls, schools and other communal institutions. Where can we give in the best way that moves us, that inspires us and allows us to utilize our individual talents. An additional way to appreciate this pasuk is in the following way: Often a person cannot begin to conceive of how to give if not asked. Hashem commands us to give, but, it is up to us consider what is important in the community. Often instruction helps direct us. After being asked, the Torah tells us in Parshat Vayakhel that there were so many funds brought forth that Moshe had to instruct Bnei Yisrael to cease their giving. As Rav Shimshon Raphael Hirsch comments in Parshat VaYakhel: The meaning of [the root] n-d-v is that is flows from an inner source… a person who is "nadiv" is someone who is free and independent, such that his actions are motivated solely by the dictates of his inner self… The text highlights this quality of giving (hitnadvut) by appending the word "lev" (heart) – "nediv lev" (a person with a generous heart). Or, for extra emphasis, "nediv libo" – his own heart. Thus the text removes any hint of coercion, or even any external influence, which may direct the act of the person who brings…. The level of donations for the Mishkan ended up being put to a halt, because it was so plentiful. The contributions were abundant. This Shabbat, as we read of Hashem opening up the possibility for the generous donations of each member of Am Yisrael, it is fitting that we simultaneously raise awareness for Halachic Organ Donor Society (HODS). HODS is an organization which works tirelessly to encourage Jewish people around the world to consider becoming organ donors and supporting those who do. There is a perception that organ donation is prohibited according to Jewish Law. This is a misconception. In reality, there are various types of organs that are permissible according to almost all rabbinic opinions. There are other donations which are debated in Jewish law with major poskim on either side of the debate. HODS educates about the different medical and Halakhic issues involving organ donation. You can sign up for a specific type of organ donor card where people can become organ donors in accordance with Jewish law. Organ donation saves lives. Please keep this in mind with an open heart.

סנהדרין, פרק ד, משנה ה

" וכל המקיים נפש אחת, מעלים עליו כאילו קיים עולם מלא..."

The Mishna in Sanhedrin, Ch. 4, Mishna 5 teaches that "Any person who saves one life, it is as if this person has saved an entire world." For more information and to sign up, visit May each of us, as individual members of the collective of the Jewish people and our world find ways of fulfilling our ethical obligation to contribute to giving to others and building our world in the way that move each of us, in our heart. Shabbat Shalom.

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