What good are gifts that are offered without loving intention & desire to do right? In Rabbi Dov Haiyun’s dvar Torah to Parashat Truma (literally “contribution”), we understand that an open, intentional, and willing heart is everything.
This week’s Torah reading , “Truma” opens with the following words:
1 “And the LORD spoke unto Moses, saying: 2 ‘Speak unto the children of Israel, that they take for Me an offering; of every man whose heart maketh him willing ye shall take My offering.” -Exodus, 25:2
As a person reads the section, something in the wording of this sentence catches the eye and raises the question – what is the meaning of the ending of the verse that reads: “of every man whose heart maketh him willing ye shall take My offering.”? I don’t remember other places in the Torah in which commandments are mentioned and immediately afterwards “…of every man whose heart maketh him willing…” to perform this commandment.
If this is a mitzvah (“commandment”) then it is apparent that there should be no question! Rather, it just should be done. And if it is not such an important mitzvah why are so many verses devoted to it? In order to find answers to these questions we need to first understand the meaning of the tabernacle that is spoken about so much in this Torah reading.
Speaking rationally, it is not really possible to understand why the Holy Blessed One asks the people of Israel to build a tabernacle. Does God really need a physical place (of residence) on earth? What does Hashem need a tabernacle for at all?
After reading the verse that follows: 8 “And let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them” it is possible to understand the exact reason for building of the tabernacle by the people of Israel.
“They will make me a tabernacle”, and in this way/through this act – “I will dwell amongst them”. From this verse we understand that this tabernacle is for us, not for God. For we are not able to only feel, we have to express our feelings through something concrete!
“…of every man whose heart maketh him willing ye shall take My offering.”
But what is this business of having the mitzvah done only by those who want to?
We need to build tabernacle after all, don’t we? So let us apply a special tabernacle tax, and then we will build the tabernacle! But no – the Torah tells us: If you really want to make progress – do this from your hearts! Do this from true and honest willingness, and not because you were obliged to do so!
Only thus will you be able to establish a holy tabernacle, and only so can the tabernacle be effective and worthy… when its entire basis is generosity and action from true desire — personal and general.
Just like a person who requests water from a friend. If that friend gets angry and doesn’t want to satisfy the request, and only after a threat from a third party does he indeed bring the water, the water will taste different to the one who requested it compared to a situation in which his friend runs happily and willingly to bring him the water. The Torah is talking about just this situation.
In the work of creating a place of this sort, a place in which people are purified and transcend themselves, where they come closer and are strengthened – there must be true willingness without obligation, without any coercion from any source, Divine or human. However, the matter doesn’t end here.
The Torah adds two additional words that in conjunction with these thoughts paint a fuller, more perfect picture.
“…that they take for Me ..” (“Vayekchu li“)
Rashi interprets these two words “for Me” – “for my Name” and the explanation of this is simple.
It is not enough that you only want to give from your heart silver and gold, brass, scarlet cloth, ram’s skins dyed red, onyx stones, etc. Your giving, just like your work, must have specific intent. Ok, but all this is only relevant to the past! Where do I have a tabernacle today? Where am I being asked for my donation of silver and gold and the other things?
Today there is no Temple or tabernacle, that is true. But something else remains of this commandment, one special something that we can do and, in fact, do daily without even knowing, every hour, every minute and even every second. All of us, both the young and the adults…
“..every man whose heart maketh him willing…”
Every person who walks in the street and offers help to another, everyone who gets up in a bus and offers his place to a pregnant woman, to an elderly person.
Every individual who volunteers to help a farmer, without regard to his religion, just because he needs the help.
Every volunteer who gives of himself to help the disabled, the needy, children, or the sick and manages to bring a smile to their faces… and the list is even longer than this.
Because of all of us! Everyone does this every day, and at every moment! The donation, the giving, they are an inseparable part of our daily routine, of our lives -even if we do not notice it.
Even if you went to work today, and helped someone, your friend there or your employee in whatever way – you gave!
You offered help to some other people – you contributed!
You helped when you volunteered – you contributed!
This is our routine, and it is impossible to ignore it! With every breathe that we breath we can contribute, we can give! As it says in the song: “To give with all the soul, to give with all the heart!”
Rabbi Dov (Dubi) Haiyun is the leader of Kehilat Moriah in Haifa and a member of Rabbis for Human Rights
Special thank you to Rabbi Yehiel Grenimann for translation