When Moses is told to collect funds for the Tabernacle, God says that he should tell the people to ‘take, for me, a contribution’. The sages point out that one would expect it to say, ‘give me, a contribution’, not ‘take for me’. Why is giving a contribution looked upon as taking?
I think it is obvious, but I’ll say it anyway.
Chana and I gave a talk last night to my rabbis on parenting. The way we see parenting, we said, is that it’s a privilege. It is an opportunity to share and contribute to another human being’s journey in this world. Being a parent is one of life’s great gifts for those who are blessed with children. Yes, it requires effort and sacrifice. Yes, it is challenging, frustrating, infuriating and exasperating. Yes – all of that and much more. And yet, it remains a privilege, an honour, and a joy. Ultimately, what we ‘take’ from parenting, the opportunity to support and contribute to an independent human life, is so much more than the effort we give. Parenting might well involve a lot of giving. But ultimately, we receive more than that giving in return.
So too with charity. And I am most effective as a fundraiser when I realise this. As much as I might be coming to ask for support for the work that I do, what I offer in return is so much greater. Yes, it requires a person to give money. Some people have more, and some people have less of an attachment to their money. But, either way, money is transient and superficial. You don’t get buried with it and you don’t get eulogised for it. So, charity will indeed require you giving of that money. But what will it give in return? The opportunity to support something meaningful. The opportunity to contribute to a greater good. The opportunity to be of service to a higher cause. Is that giving, or taking? Of course, it is giving. But the Torah is suggesting that the taking is greater.
I have a friend who is a brilliant businessman and economist. He always reminds me that no one will spend their money on something that is not worth more to them than the money they are spending. If someone bought a tie for £20 and the tie was worth exactly £20 to them, it wouldn’t be worth the effort involved in buying it. The tie must be worth more than £20 to them if they are to buy it. So too with charity. If a person gives £100,000 to charity, it means that the person giving that money is receiving something more valuable than £100,000. For some, that might be honour or self-respect. For others, it might be credibility and relationships, a means to make more money. But for me, I want the people I share my vision with to see that what is really being offered is meaning; to share in a cause that is making a significant impact; the opportunity to be part of something that matters.
Like I say, when I am able to feel that, and share it with others, fundraising is actually a pleasure. It is a give and take, a partnership. To contribute to the Tabernacle was a privilege for those willing to take it. To contribute to any meaningful cause is exactly the same.
Parsha in a Nutshell
This portion details the building of the Tabernacle. It’s the first fundraising drive in Jewish history. No fancy dinners, no adverts and no matching donations – just a word from Moses and the money came in. Where is Moses when you need him?!
The Tabernacle was a structure in which God ‘resided’. That obviously doesn’t mean He was there and not elsewhere. It was simply a place in which one could feel and experience God’s presence in a much more tangible way.