"Each one who crosses over to those already counted is to give a half shekel, according to the sanctuary shekel, which weighs twenty gerahs. This half shekel is an offering to the LORD." - Exodus 30:13
The Torah portion for this week is Tetzaveh, which means "contributions," from Exodus 27:20-30:10, and the Haftorah is from Ezekiel 43:10-27.
I once heard a speaker talk about attending a charity event on behalf of the Israel Defense Forces. The man explained that he only went because his brother had prompted him to go, but after hearing the soldiers share their personal stories and needs, the man was overwhelmed with love and decided to give a substantial amount of charity.
During the event, the man's brother texted him to see how it was going. The man told his brother how right he had been, how the cause was truly worthy, and that he would contribute to the cause. His brother then asked, "Is it an amount that is easy for you to give?" The man answered, "Yes, it's no problem." His brother responded, "Then you aren't giving enough."
It's true that when giving to God's purposes, our gift is greater when it comes from beyond our comfort zone. It's more of a sacrifice to God. However, as this week's Torah portion teaches us, giving shouldn't be a painful experience either. Giving sacrificially should leave us motivated and inspired; it should set us on fire.
In this week's reading, God gave instructions that each Israelite man must contribute a half shekel as an offering to the Lord. The Jewish sages teach that when God gave Moses this commandment, He showed Moses a "coin of fire." What did this image symbolize?
There's a story about a Jewish community in Germany that was renowned for its great love of giving charity. In the event of a local emergency, the community wouldn't rest until the individual in need was back on his or her feet. Once, the rabbi in this community was delivering a sermon about the importance of giving charity and he cited this verse. The coin of fire, he explained, was to teach us that when we give charity, we must give it with enthusiasm. As this community demonstrated, we have to "be on fire," full of passion, excitement, and vigor when it comes to our giving.
When giving to charity, we can focus on one of two things; either we can focus on what it's going to cost us, or we can choose to look at the benefits. If we look at the cost, it might hurt. If we look at what our contributions make possible, we'll feel tremendous joy.
When I think of the contributions that help bring Jews in danger around the world back to their ancient homeland in Israel, I am filled with joy. When I think of the warmth provided to the elderly who can't afford blankets or heat, I am inspired. When I think of Jews and Christians coming together to support the people of Israel, I am on fire! I invite you to join us in giving to God's purposes with joy and, above all, with enthusiasm and passion.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President