The LORD said to Moses, "Tell the Israelites to bring me an offering. You are to receive the offering for me from everyone whose heart prompts them to give." - Exodus 25:1-2
The Torah portion for this week is Terumah, which means "contributions," from Exodus 25:1-27:19, and the Haftorah is from 1 Kings 5:26-6:13.
This week's Torah portion begins with an unusual commandment: "The Lord said to Moses, Tell the Israelites to bring me an offering.'" At first glance, it seems straightforward enough. Moses was to ask the Israelites to give a gift to be used for God's purposes. However, if you translate the verse literally from the original Hebrew you get this: "The LORD said to Moses, Speak to the Israelites and let them take for me an offering . . . '" What makes this directive so strange is that Moses was asking the children of Israel to give offerings in order to build the Tabernacle, God's temporary dwelling place. However, instead of using the word "give" or "bring," Scripture uses the word "take."
So what were the Israelites meant to do - give something or get something?
The answer is both; however, the emphasis is on the taking because in this case, even the giving was really taking. Let me explain!
There is nothing physical that we can really give to God; as the psalmist wrote, "The earth is the LORD's, and everything in it" (Psalm 24:1). Everything, including all our possessions and money, belongs to God. So there is nothing that we can give to Him that isn't His already. All we can do is return our money to its rightful owner.
However, as the choice of words in this verse indicates, when we "give" to God's purposes, it's not just that we aren't truly giving Him anything, because everything already belongs to God - we are actually taking when we contribute to a godly initiative. By giving away what is in our possession, we don't lose anything, rather we acquire something!
J.L. Kraft, head of the Kraft Foods Group, who had given approximately 25 percent of his income to Christian causes for many years, once said, "The only investment that I ever made which has paid consistently increasing dividends is the money I have given to the Lord." When we contribute to God's purposes with physical currency, we are paid back, so to speak, with far more valuable "spiritual currency." At the end of the day, it is only these spiritual acquisitions that will stay with us forever.
I recently heard about a woman who had passed away and had requested in her will to be buried with two things: her worn and tattered prayer book and all the receipts from the charities to which she had contributed. Now that's taking your money with you! That's the only way to take your money with you.
Sometimes we get so caught up in building up our earthly capital that it's easy to forget about making the most important investments of all - our eternal future by giving to God's purposes today!
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President