The Torah portion that we will read this week, Parshat Truma, deals with God’s instructions to Moshe Rabbenu regarding all that relates to the building of the Mishkan (Tabernacle) and the ritual objects it contains.
At the beginning of the parsha there is an appeal to Am Yisrael calling for every person to donate of his possessions for this purpose. In this appeal, we find a surprising expression: “Speak unto the children of Israel, that they take for Me an offering; of every man whose heart makes him willing you shall take My offering.” (Exodus 25, 2) Had any of us been asked to phrase this call, we would have written it differently, perhaps more accurately: “Speak unto the children of Israel, that they give for Me an offering...,” since actually, the children of Israel are being called upon to give a donation, not take one.
But the Torah defines the act of donation as taking, and not as giving. This phrasing is the opposite of the accepted conception. A man who donates of his money is meant to be defined as the giver. Why, then, would this altruistic act of donation for such an exalted cause be defined as taking? Sometimes, when we give of ourselves or of our possessions to another, we are overcome by a sense of superiority. I give, I donate, I sacrifice of myself. But the Torah reveals to us an incredible idea with this verse: When you give – you get. In your personal life, if you sacrifice for your partner, if you give to your children – you are supposedly the giver, but in actuality you received and benefited from giving. Also in society, if you donate of your money to the weak or needy – you take from this giving no less than the person for whom you made the donation.
The getting that is inherent in the act of giving is expressed not only by the sense of satisfaction which accompanies any good deed we do. Even love, prestige or respect which we gain from donating to society or to the community are not enough to make the act of giving itself be considered by us as taking. The real benefit which we gain when we give to people around us is the change that occurs within us, in our personality.
When we become the “givers,” the person who gives becomes a more productive, superior, better person.
Our place in society as “givers” provides us benefits that are not measured in money. This is not a financial gain. This gain stands in a much higher place. It is the stimulus for improvement in every area of our lives – in our relationships, at work, with our parents, and with our children.
A person who gives of himself for others, even if it is a simple and easy effort and all the more so when the giving entails sacrifice and real effort, becomes a partner in making the world a better place. King David said in Psalms: “Olam hessed yibaneh,” “the world is built on kindness”; the person who gives is building a better and more worthy world that we all yearn to live in.
A person who gives of his strengths or of his money gives mainly of himself.
The significant benefit that a person gains from giving to another is that which brings the Torah to define giving as “taking.”
Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz is Rabbi of the Western Wall and Holy Sites.