“The people are bringing more than is needed for the tasks entailed in the work that the LORD has commanded to be done. Moses thereupon had this proclamation made throughout the camp: “Let each man and woman make no further effort toward gifts for the sanctuary!” So the people stopped bringing; their efforts had been more than enough for all the tasks to be done. (Ex. 36: 5-7)
This passage is a fundraiser’s dream! Does it ever really happen that way?
This past Sunday, our seventh grade “Leaving the Garden” group discussed the Jewish approach to tsedaka (the obligation to give). They learned that our priority is on the feelings of the recipient, rather than the feelings of the giver. Therefore, we should show compassion to someone in need, and do everything in our power to preserve the dignity of the receiver.
Our congregation is rich in our willingness to help others and to do it with dignity and compassion. Everyone is to be commended for this generosity, which is so fundamental to our Jewish values and to our world. On Purim, we exceeded our goal of $250 for Yad Chessed, and raised over $400!
Sometimes, though, it can be easier to write a check to a food pantry than to our own synagogue. The verse quoted from Exodus reminds us of the holy work that goes on right here, and that the work depends on generous donors as well.
Saturday night is HBT’s annual Spring Fling, an opportunity to raise funds to support the holy activities of our temple as well as a time to enjoy each other’s company.
This Torah teaching reminds us that people brought many different kinds of gifts to create a holy space. Think about the different ways that our synagogue depends on the gifts of our members: those who teach, those who lead, those who speak up in the world, those who bring their children to learn, those who come to make up our minyan. These are all valuable gifts that, like gold, silver and bronze, threads of indigo, purple and crimson, precious stones, spices and oils, make it possible for us to live up to our highest aspirations.
This passage also demonstrates that our passion for giving is as important as what (or how much) we give. In Exodus, the Torah tells us that the gifts come from each whose heart is moved. That is, when we contribute to our community, whether in material goods, in volunteer effort or simply showing up, what matters most is that we give from the heart. Our greatest gift is to give ourselves fully to this task. This is what truly builds a holy community.
In a holy community, the business and the holy work are intertwined. When we give to the synagogue, we are doing more than disbursing funds. When we open our wallets, we support the daily workings of our synagogue. When we open our hearts, we create a space for the Divine Presence to dwell among us. This holy community then expands that open-hearted Presence, so that it can transform our broken world. What will you give?