The Mishkan and Jewish Donations – who’s doing whom the favor?
Ten years ago, I was privileged to help facilitate a fundraising event in my community for certain Israeli institutions. After an inspirational lecture and an overview of the schools that were collecting donations, the rabbi, one of the most prominent in the Israeli-Anglo community said the following: “People some times ask me – rabbi, doesn’t it make you a little uncomfortable traveling around the world asking people for money? I tell them – no, not in the least! I know that these schools are our future and that the work they do is holy, and is aimed at bettering the Jewish people and the entire world.” The rabbi then looked directly at the two dozen patrons in the room, pointed to them and said “You aren’t doing me a favor by giving me your money; I am doing you a favor by taking it as this connects you to the loftiest goals and ideals.” This was said with such conviction, that people actually felt the rabbi was doing them a favor by taking their money. Needless to say, it was a very successful evening and event…
This story came to mind when I read the very beginning of Parshat Truma. “Speak to the children of Israel, and have them take for Me an offering; from every person whose heart inspires him to generosity, you shall take My offering” The language is very strange: if the Jews are giving Hashem an offering, why does the verse call it “Hashem’s offering,” inferring it is something Hashem is offering them? The answer is that donating to a cause which services all of Am Yisrael, as the Mishkan does, is indeed a privilege of the highest degree. By giving to the Mishkan, one enables a closeness between Am Yisrael and Hashem. What can be more fulfilling and more meaningful than that?
To those debating the obligation to serve in the Israeli army I say – what a privilege you have and what meaning you can find in participating in this tremendous endeavor of safeguarding the Jewish People.
To those Jews outside of Israel, debating how much support and money to send Israel, I say – Am Yisrael can manage just fine as we are doing Hashem’s work. We can manage without your sense of obligation. The better question is – can you manage without ours?
Indeed, Am Yisrael had to be forced to stop donating to the Mishkan; imagine – too many donors and too many donations. Donations were being turned down! Am Yisrael understood that it wasn’t so much that the Mishkan needed them, rather that they needed the Mishkan.
May we feel the same way about our national endeavors today as well.