Give a Little, Gain a Lot – Parshat Terumah 5778

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I forget how old Shiri was when this started, but at some point she started to collect the change around the house and put it in the tzedakah box. It became a game; anytime there was any spare change hanging around, no matter where it was, she wanted it to go into the tzedakah box. This beautiful young child had no concept of saving for herself. Instead, her entire instinct when she found money was to give it to others. I credit Foundation School for most of this, but I also like to think that Duncan and I set an example of giving that she somehow has internalized.

The freeness Shiri exhibits in giving, the pure joy and open heart she wears, is something I hope she never loses. It’s also something I hope more adults will strive for, and the Torah this week shares that hope. This week we read Parshat Terumah, which reminds us of the importance of making these gifts just because we want to. The parshah focuses mainly on the building of the Tabernacle, the Mishkan, including what the ark and decorative pieces will look like. The instructions are specific, like what materials should be used, exactly how big each piece should be, and how the floor plan should look when the building is completed.

The text begins with a commandment to give freely of your heart, which, according to the rabbis, means we shouldn’t give begrudgingly. I think of all the times I’m asked to add a dollar to my order at the grocery store for this or that cause, or the very big asks at the half dozen charity dinners we attend each year. Sometimes I’m excited to give and support the cause, but we typically give because we feel an obligation. According to the Torah, that is simply not what counts. Giving to feel the pure joy of a three-year-old putting money in a tzedakah box is the expectation.

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