Parashat Terumah kicks off the most successful Capital Campaign in Jewish history! After hearing of the plans to build a Mishkan (Tabernacle) a home for Hashem’s presence to dwell among the people, the Jewish Nation responded with an overwhelming outpouring of gifts. They brought precious stones and metals, wood, wool and all sorts of materials. So many gifts came forth, that Moshe had to ask the people to stop!
The Parasha begins with Hashem’s call to action:
“דבר אל בני ישראל ויקחו לי תרומה”
(speak to the Children of Israel and take to me a portion)
It does not require the acumen of a grammar expert to notice that the Torah employs, what appears to be, the wrong verb. The Jewish people are not being asked to ‘take’ gifts, but to ‘give’ them. We certainly have a Hebrew word that means ‘give, why not use it?
Rabbi Yosef Dov Soloveitchik explains the apparent discrepancy in vocabulary and, thereby, sheds light on a fundamental principle of Tzedakah (charity).
On an intellectual level, we all understand that, like everything in this life, wealth is only temporary. When we leave this world (after 120 years), all that we have amassed in our lifetimes will be left behind. The only assets that we take with us are the reward for the Mitzvot we have performed in our lifetimes.
This, concludes Rabbi Soloveitchik, explains the Torah’s word choice; while a person may spend an entire lifetime amassing cash and treasure, the only think he can actually ‘take’ for himself is that which he ‘gives’ to others. The commandment then, is to ‘take’ a portion for Hashem. The only portion that we can ultimately claim as our own.
As our sages have said “more than what the donor gives to the poor, is what the poor gives to the donor. An opportunity to accumulate that which is truly valuable-Mitzvot!
As we enter the month of Adar and the season of Purim (a Holiday that has several components that focus on sharing with others), let us keep this philosophy in mind as we help ourselves by helping others.
Rabbi Don Pacht