Giving is Living Terumah

The Hebrew word for “glasses” is “mishkafayim;” and the Hebrew word for “philosophy” is “hashkafa.” The reason the two words are related is because how you see the world depends on what your philosophy is. We are fortunate to have the Torah as our heritage and our collective historical backdrop to inform how we view things, our philosophy, and—so to speak—our pair of glasses.

Let’s explore the Torah’s outlook of “tzedakah,” which is “charity.” The second verse of our Parsha this week, Terumah, says the following:

דַּבֵּר֙ אֶל־בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל וְיִקְחוּ־לִ֖י תְּרוּמָ֑ה מֵאֵ֤ת כׇּל־אִישׁ֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר יִדְּבֶ֣נּוּ לִבּ֔וֹ תִּקְח֖וּ אֶת־תְּרוּמָתִֽי׃
Tell the Israelite people to bring Me gifts; you shall accept gifts for Me from every person whose heart so moves him. 

The Torah teaches us about the instructions and construction of the holy tabernacle in the desert. Here, the Israelites are commanded to bring forth gifts and raw materials for the upcoming project. The great Baal Shem Tov, the founder of the Chassidic movement, asks, “Why did the Torah use the words ‘you shall accept gifts וְיִקְחוּ־לִ֖י   תְּרוּמָ֑ה’ – when it should have said ‘you shall GIVE gifts?’ He answers brilliantly: the reason is because when we GIVE, we also RECEIVE.

This is also evident in the following verse of Exodus 30:12:
כִּ֣י תִשָּׂ֞א אֶת־רֹ֥אשׁ בְּנֵֽי־יִשְׂרָאֵל֮ לִפְקֻדֵיהֶם֒ וְנָ֨תְנ֜וּ אִ֣ישׁ כֹּ֧פֶר נַפְשׁ֛וֹ לַיוָ֖ה בִּפְקֹ֣ד אֹתָ֑ם וְלֹא־יִיֶ֥ה בָהֶ֛ם נֶ֖גֶף בִּפְקֹ֥ד אֹתָֽם׃
When you take a census of the Israelite people according to their enrollment, each shall give the LORD an atonement fee for himself on being enrolled, that no plague may come upon them through their being enrolled.

The highlighted word in the verse – וְנָ֨תְנ֜וּ- Venatenu, which means, “And you shall give”is a palindrome. A reason the word for giving is the same word backwards and forwards is to demonstrate this very lesson: that when we give, in essence we receive.

Yet how shall we understand this concept that giving is actually receiving?

One answer is that when we give, we will be rewarded with abundance from G-d. Indeed, there is a passage in the Talmud that says just that: עַשֵּׂר תְּעַשֵּׂר – עשר בשביל שתתעשר  “Tithe in order that you should achieve wealth.” Many great and wealthy philanthropists attribute their riches to the fact that they have been charitable, and because of their giving they received that much more.

However, on a psychological level giving is also receiving. The happiest people in the world are the givers. Givers make the best spouses, friends, business partners, and citizens. Givers are happier people, more satisfied with their lot, and live their lives with a sense of gratitude.

Therefore, when we decide to “answer the call” and advance our gift this coming Super Week, let’s do so with alacrity and joy knowing that the more we give, the more we receive.

Shabbat Shalom.
Rabbi Ephraim Epstein
Community Scholar in Residence