hearts that are moved
by Jhos Singer
Shabbat Shalom, Chaverim—
This week’s Torah portion, Terumah (Exodus 25:1-27:19) contains one of Judaism’s most consistent and widespread practices. It is something that every branch and leaf of organizational Judaism shares, evolves, and tries to master. It crosses all denominations, philosophies, eras, and locations. It is universally engaged and professionalized, though the average community enters it reluctantly and with dread. Yeah, you got it: fundraising.
God dictates to Moses the basis for the first Jewish building campaign, and here’s the pitch:
“Tell the children of Israel to bring Me gifts; accept contributions from every person whose heart so moves him. And these are the gifts you shall accept from them: gold, silver, and copper; blue, purple, and crimson yarns, fine linen, goats’ hair, tanned ram and dolphin skins, and acacia wood; oils, spices, and precious stones. And let them build me a sanctuary that I may dwell among them.” (Exodus 25:1-8)
The Torah gambles on two important points. First, that people will contribute to the cause and second, that they will do so because their hearts move them. There is risk and wisdom encoded in this formula. On the one hand, the Torah assumes generosity and diversity in giving. It acknowledges that there are many ways to give, different needs to fill, and that anything contributed is a gift given freely from the heart. There is not only a need for materials but also for workers, for builders, crafts people, laborers, and artists. The portion goes on to describe everything that must be made, and how each element fits together. It goes on and on and on. I find the project utterly daunting. And, even though I know how it all turns out, every time I read this portion I can’t help but think, “But what if no one participates?”
Quite simply, it is entirely doubtful that the project would have survived without the structures everyone pulled together to build. At this point in the Torah, there is no prayer practice, no distinctive culture, no sense of lineage or legacy. It’s just a bunch of traumatized slaves who have landed in a hostile desert following a guy they don’t entirely know or trust. A lot of them are cranky, scared, and suspicious. Might they just take their loot and head off to the nearest village, dissolve into the existing culture, and enjoy their new life and good fortune? I mean heck, they are free now, right? Why follow an uncertain path with an erratic leader and a demanding God?
And yet, despite their misgivings and discomfort, they give, and give, and give. Amazingly, they cast their lot—their precious things, their skills, their sweat, their fate—into creating a place where Spirit might join them. Their hearts are moved to give and build because they have had a collective experience of the faith that God has in them.
And so Judaism was born.
Obviously, this, too, is a pitch. Chochmat HaLev also needs your gold and silver, your artistry and your sweat, your talents and expertise. And like the Torah, we have faith that your hearts will move you to give and build. If you love reading these musings it would be amazing if you would send in a donation as a way of showing support and gratitude. If you aren’t a member, maybe consider it. If membership isn’t your thing but you enjoy what we offer, may your heart move you to offer a gift. If you have time, perhaps offer to volunteer some of it to us. It’s what we do: give and build. And every single act of generosity makes a difference—physically, financially, and spiritually.
I know God has lots of places to stay now-a-days, but together let’s make sure that Chochmat HaLev remains a sanctuary where It can dwell amongst us. May this Shabbat bring abundance, divine delight, and sweet community.