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עשה תורתך קבע – אמור מעט ועשה הרבה

Parshat Terumah – its all about the Benjamins

Posted by rabbiart on February 19, 2010

Notwithstanding that at our shul we are in the third part of the triennial cycle, the full parshah opens with a deceptively simple statement.

דַּבֵּר אֶל-בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל, וְיִקְחוּ-לִי תְּרוּמָה: מֵאֵת כָּל-אִישׁ אֲשֶׁר יִדְּבֶנּוּ לִבּוֹ, תִּקְחוּ אֶת-תְּרוּמָתִי.

(HaShem spoke to Moshe saying) Speak to the Israelites so that they take for me an offering, from each man whose heart is willing, you should take my offering.

Would that it were so simple… and often it is!

What Jewish person hasn’t asked for, or been asked for a ‘voluntary contribution’. My regular readers (Hi Mom) are well aware that I’ve been doing my own version of terumahfor – of course – the Israel Bike Ride. I’m not Moshe, the Arava Institute is not the mishkan, but in its own way it is striving to bring into our lives the same effect, a living sanctuary right here in our world

Reading the opening lines of the parshah sends me right into thinking about building structures so that Hashem can live among us, whether HaShem is called by that name, or call Allah, or all of the other names by which the one and only Creator is known and called upon.

The particular words of the opening verse call our attention to a particular aspect of the donation.  The words do not say ‘that they give me an offering” but that they take me an offering.  Whether then or now, whether money or some other form, we can only take from what we have, in order to donate.

The words describe the ideal reaction we should all have when asked to take-and-give. We should have a willing heart.  Perhaps the words also hint at the inherent nature of humans.  Over the past couple of years Discover magazine has published several articles about the search for the “altruism gene” and research into whether individuals who are wired to be generous and who naturally share have a specific evolutionary advantage over those who are wired to be selfish.  I don’t have specific hyperlinks handy, but I have also read of studies reporting that different parts of the brain light up when the generosity impulse is triggered.

So actually – its not all about the Benjamins as that phrase is commonly used in ‘street talk’ now.  ‘All about the Benjamins’ is code for what you can get and keep for yourself, not about what you can give away to help others.

In verse eight we get the reason, the explanation, and the secret of HaShem’s design for our world, that we are meant to have open and generous hearts, to give often and early, and to cause HaShem to eagerly dwell in our midst.

Shabbat Shalom


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