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Beit Hamidrash

Donate from the Heart

By: הרב שי פירון

Donate from the Heart


"Speak to the children of Israel, so that they take for Me a donation;

from every man whose heart makes him willing you shall take My

donation." (Shemot 25:2)



Following the account of the Israelites' acceptance of the Divine and
spiritual Torah, we read the Parsha of Mishpatim, a series of very detailed
this-world and practical laws, seemingly spoiling the sublime atmosphere of
the previous Parsha, Yitro. This Shabbat, we will read Parshat Terumah, which
attempts to bridge between the sublime Yitro and the grounded Mishpatim.
It discusses in detail the very elaborate commandments of constructing the
edifice and fashioning the accessories of the Mishkan. It was, after all, in the
Mishkan that the divine Presence encountered human achievement, that
man and God met.


However, before describing the construction of the Mishkan itself, the    
Parsha records another commandment to collect donations, specifying the
different materials required: "gold, silver, bronze, indigo, purple, and scarlet
wool, fine linen, goats hair, rams skins dyed red, sealskins, acacia-wood, oil
for the light, spices for the anointing oil and the sweet incense, onyx stones,
and stones to be set for the ephod and the breastplate" (Ibid. 4-7).


Further scrutiny of the verses reveals that the donations were ‘taken' from
the people, but that the giving itself was, nonetheless, insufficient. The
Torah emphasizes the donor's intentions: "From every man whose heart
makes him willing you shall take My donation." At first glance, this seems
superfluous: by definition, a donation is voluntary. Nevertheless, the Torah
repeatedly stresses that in the donations for the Mishkan, all ulterior motives
are prohibited. When dealing with the Mishkan, God's house, we demand a
different kind of donation, heartfelt and free of external considerations.


For the remainder of the Parsha, the Torah gives extremely specific
instructions about how the donations are to be used: what is given and in what
quantities; what utensils are to be made, and out of which materials, what
are the weights and dimensions of each utensil. With these specifications,
the Torah wishes to teach us that fervor - the internal motivation which
moves a person to reach into his wallet and offer a generous contribution
- cannot come at the expense of exact rules. The Torah did not want the
Mishkan to be built by an emotional outpouring of generosity; it wanted
sincere commitment to an organized system.


The engagement of the entire nation in the building process, and each
individual's unique intentions, lead to the Torah's conclusion of the
commandment to donate: "And let them make Me a sanctuary, and I will
dwell among them" (Ibid 8). One would expect the Torah to say "and I will
dwell within it" - in the Mishkan. Instead, the Torah emphasizes that the
spirit of generosity leads first and foremost to God's dwelling in the heart
of each individual.


It is not always possible to achieve complete altruism and pureness of
heart. When asked how a person can achieve such qualities, R' Meir of
Przemysl answered with a different explanation of a verse in the Parsha: the
commandment is to take a donation "from every man", even if "it anguishes his
heart" (the words ‘yidvenu libo', which mean ‘whose heart makes him willing',
can mean, if spelled differently but pronounced similarly, ‘whose heart
anguishes him'). One may justifiably ask: Then why accept his donation? If it
so pains him to give a donation, clearly there is no true willingness to give!
R' Meir answers that the Torah, despite the donor's disgust, commands us to
take his donation and disregard his pain or begrudged giving. Sometimes, in
order to achieve the proper result of generosity, the donor must be helped
to develop the habit of giving.


Contemporary Israeli society is in a state of social crisis. Our society suffers
from deep social rifts which set apart different socioeconomic segments of
the population. To remedy this situation, the more blessed populations must
make commitments of support to weaker populations. Much has already
been written about the importance of the "Third Sector" and the need to
minimize the identified rifts in our society. In this area of concern, members
of the business community can set personal examples by becoming active
and especially by using their management and interpersonal skills for the
betterment of society.


As in the Temple, so in contemporary society. There are many different ways
to make a personal contribution. It is no coincidence that all of the building
materials were listed: gold silver, and bronze; onyx stones and stones to be
set; blue wool and purple wool. God's many-colored sanctuary highlights the
need for individuality even within a rigidly-defined framework. Every donor's
individuality should be celebrated and he/she should find a meaningful way
to contribute to society and improve it. All donors share a sense of inner
purpose which will ultimately bring God's Presence to dwell amongst the
entire nation, and in the heart of each individual.


Rabbi Shai Piron is the Rosh Yeshiva of the Hesder Yeshiva and the Yeshiva
High School of Petach Tikvah, and a member of the Directorate of Tzohar