Always Giving Charity with a Full Heart
The Torah in this week's parsha dwells upon the giving of one's wealth,
assets, time and talents for an altruistic public cause - in this case the
construction of the Mishkan, the Tabernacle of Israel. The Torah lists a
prerequisite for being able to give such a donation of effort and wealth.
First the donor's heart must be willing and compassionate. Though charity is
eventually realized in the actual act of giving, it begins within the heart
of the giver.
Charity is an emotional and oftentimes gut-wrenching experience, both for
the donor and the recipient. The Talmud indicates that the giving of wealth
alone is insufficient to meet the true demands of charitable behavior and
action. "God wants our hearts" is the Talmudic phrase that is applicable to
charitable giving, as well as to most of Jewish life and law.
Giving without passion and sympathy is still giving, but it is imperfect.
The heart must want before the hand signs the check. The Torah sets no goal
or specified amount as to what one's donation to the Mishkan should or would
be. Some people brought gold and silver, others gave items that would be
considered to be less expensive and not as valuable.
The Torah makes no reference to these obvious differences. The copper and
bronze mirrors that plated the altar, donated by the women of Israel, are
given the same prominence in the Torah as the gold that was donated for the
Holy Ark and the other artifacts. The Torah measures the giving by the
intent of the heart of the giver.
As someone who has been engaged in Torah and Jewish fundraising for many
decades, I can testify that when the emotion is present in the heart of the
giver, the check is correspondingly larger. While I was in America recently
I met a Jew from Israel who was collecting money to help a destitute family
cope with a very serious medical issue. While in Los Angeles, he was robbed
at gunpoint and the few thousand dollars that he had collected was stolen
Later, when I met him in a different American city, he told me that people
were more generous to him after they knew what had happened, even though the
purpose of his collection had not changed. I told him that it was the
emotion of the unfairness of his loss that now touched the hearts of people
and that naturally their donations increased
The nation of Haiti required enormous financial and social support from the
rest of the world long before the devastating earthquake ravaged it. But it
took the earthquake to reach the hearts of individuals, organizations and
governments worldwide. The measure of the truly righteous is how open their
hearts are to others' problems and needs “normally.” This, in essence, is
the lesson of Parshat Terumah – though the original Mishkan constructed by
Moshe no longer exists amongst us.
Rabbi Berel Wein