Terumah 5778 – Taking From Ourselves

In Parshas Terumah, Bnai Yisrael are in the aftermath of receiving the Torah, hearing the litany of laws that we as a mamleches Kohanim, a sanctified nation are to uphold. Klal Yisrael responded to the charge of Hashem with a resounding Naaseh venishmah, we will do and we will listen. Now, it’s time to put our money where our mouth is, so to speak and the task at hand is the construction of the Mishkan. The parsha begins “Daber el Bnai Yisrael vayikchu Li terumah me’eis kol ish asher yidvenu libo tikchu es Terumasi/Speak to the children of Israel, and have them take for Me an offering; from every person whose heart inspires him to generosity, you shall take My offering.” Chazal point out immediately that the wording of the pasuk is interesting. Usually, when one talks about tzedakah, it would say vayitnu Li, not vayikchu li, to give charity, rather than to take charity. When one decides to give generously as described in the pasuk, it implies that the action is something that they want to do, that they would plan on doing. Taking infers that it’s something you would rather not do. You don’t give money to the government for taxes, they take it from you! The phrasing almost brings to mind one minding their own business during davening and the gabbai reaching into your pocket, taking out a $10 bill and stuffing it in the pushka. What does this wording of “vayikchu Li terumah, take for Me an offering” mean?

A more “Litvishe” answer examines the “pashut pshat,” that Hashem is telling Moshe to set up gabba’ei tzadaka, officers who would go out and directly receive the funds from the masses. That’s why the Torah states that they should take for Me an offering. A second, slightly more “chassidishe” answer is that this commandment from Hashem requires of us to take from the gashmius and the chitzoniyus, our material and external possessions and sanctify His name. Hashem is the source of all, the ultimate baal tzedaka to the world. The money that we accrue in our lifetime belongs to him and is meted out for us at the beginning of every year, a fact that’s not easy to remember. We take the mundane and make it holy. The Ramchal adds in Mesilas Yesharim that when a person sanctifies himself with the holiness of his Creator, then even his routine actions become matters of kedushah. Continues the Ramchal that one whose life is completely encompassed by the observance of mitzvos, it is as if he is walking before Hashem in Gan Eden, while still living in this world. By living a life of kedushah, the most miniscule daily tasks and seemingly ordinary items can be met with a high level of sanctity. A dollar bill has no holiness. But when you give that dollar to someone or something that can use it and really needs it, you are making it holy.

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