Give and take
Torah Portion: T’rumah (Contribution) Exodus (Sh’mot) 25:1-27:19
Haftorah Reading: I Kings 5:26-6:13
Tonight, we begin a series of four Torah portions that discuss the building of the Mishkan or Tabernacle and all of the items included in that construction. When Israel came into the Land their Tabernacle was set up in Shiloh and remained there for 369 years until Solomon built the Temple in Jerusalem.
Our portion begins with G-d speaking to Moshe, instructing him to take a contribution from the people to provide all the materials needed in the construction project. Later in Sh’mot/Exodus 35:21-29 we read where both men and women were included in this contribution. This makes the point that this was shared by everyone, all the people of Israel, not just a few. Everyone had a part in the building of the Mishkan.
As we shall see, as we read, the offering and construction involved everyone. This helped in the building of a spiritual community as well as a physical place of worship. The main point, as seen in Exodus/Sh’mot 25:8, was to provide a place where the Father would dwell in them, as a result of their belief and faithfulness to Him.
These people were only a few months out of Egypt where they had been slaves for hundreds of years. Now here they are asked to not only build but also to contribute all the materials needed, all the gold, silver and bronze as well as precious jewels and other items. Yet they did not hesitate. In fact, Moshe had to tell them, in Exodus/Sh’mot 36:5-7, to stop giving. For us as believers in the Messiah, all of this should speak to us. We can read, for example, in John 2:19-21 where Yeshua compared His body to the Temple. He was saying He could be compared as the Temple was a spiritual place to meet so He also would be such a spiritual place where G-d’s people could come together, both Jew and non-Jew. Paul emphasis this in I Cor. 6:19 and II Cor. 6:16. We are part of this spiritual body of the Father and His presence dwells (tocham) within us. The same word tocham is used here in our verses tonight in Exodus/Sh’mot 25:8.
In Exodus/Sh’mot 25:1 most translations read “Tell the Israelites to give an offering.” In Hebrew the word is not give but instead it says to “take an offering.” Why would G-d use the word take? I think G-d was reminding them that everything they had was given by Him. They did not own anything. If you think of the example of a small child and his mother buys him an ice cream cone. As they are walking along the mother asks for a lick of the ice cream. The child says “No! It’s mine!” He had already forgotten who gave him the ice cream in the first place. Everything we have comes from G-d. We should be willing for Him to take part of what He has given us to help others. We can only “give” what we personally own but we can allow Him to take what is needed for others when there is a need. It is only a small word but it reminds us of G-d grace and love in the things He has allowed us to use but always remembering He is the provider of all things.
Now I want to talk about the effect of being part of this spiritual people of G-d and also about the effect giving has on these people and on us. In this Torah portion we see a subtle change in the relationship between G-d and the people. Up until this time G-d had supplied every need for the people. The people had only been on the receiving end. They had been freed from slavery, led through the wilderness, and crossed the sea through the power of G-d. When they were hungry G-d supplied food. When they were thirsty He gave them water.
Think for a moment what affect this can have on a people or an individual. They become dependent and immature. We see this in their constant complaining. The result was an ungrateful people. From their perspective complaining worked. I would expect we have all seen people, maybe young children who have perfected the art of complaining and having their wishes fulfilled. This does not develop maturity in them.
Here we read of G-d introducing a new idea, T’rumah or giving. G-d gave them the opportunity to give. What happens when these people or when we have the opportunity to help someone? As I have mentioned, another meaning for the word T’rumah is to lift up. In Torah we read of the process of giving an offering to G-d. Most of the time this involved lifting up the item being offered. So, it is not difficult to see how these two words would come from the same root. However, I want us to think about this lifting up in a little different way.
In Hebrew the word for righteous is the word also used for an offering given by a person. Think for a moment, how it would feel to always be only on the receiving end of helping and never giving help to another. When we lived in Israel there were many beggars on the street and people would give them money. It was expected however, that the person begging would also give an offering to someone else who was in need. If this happened what effect would this have on the person? It would, hopefully, give them a sense of dignity. It would develop a sense of being useful. It would lift up the person, knowing they had helped another.
So, when we read of T’rumah here in this portion it seems G-d was giving the children of Israel their first taste of dignity, of helping, of reaching outside of themselves and being involved in something bigger than they were.
We are all to be that kind of person. We should strive to be the person that looks for a way to touch another person, to help someone who needs to be helped, to lift them up and ourselves by giving.