Weekly Dvar Torah: Terumah

In this week’s Torah portion, Terumah, Moses is on the summit of Mount Sinai obtaining information from G-d on how to build a portable dwelling that is easily assembled, dismantled and transported. The people of Israel were asked by G-d to “take a donation” of what they could contribute to the 13 required materials requested. The dwelling was built from 48 wooden planks, forming 3 walls, surrounded by a courtyard. Within the dwelling, there were the Ten Commandments, 2 carved angels, a 7 branched menorah and a sacrifice. This gave the Jewish people a place to worship G-d.

This request from G-d confused Moses as he was unable to comprehend how the Jewish people would be able to sacrifice enough in order to pay back for all of their sins with the little they had to contribute. To this, G-d replied, “not like your’e thinking, but one half-shekel according to the sanctified Shekel measure…” Translated, this teaches a very important life lesson that can be applied in many situations in everyday life today. By telling the Jewish people to contribute whatever they could, G-d allowed each and every Jewish person to donate the amount of materials they could afford and do only what was within their abilities. Similarly, today a person is required to give monetary charity based upon his or her wealth. Moreover, a person who is wealthy cannot be expected to give the same amount of money as a person who is poor, nor should a poor person give the same amount as a wealthy person. This lesson teaches us that a person should not worry and dwell on the things that they cannot do or accomplish, instead, they should focus on the things that they can do and look ahead to contribute what is within their reach and capabilities of achieving. This can mean contributing time or knowledge, instead of money, in order to fulfill the same requirements set out by G-d. By looking at the glass half full, the charitable efforts, no matter how much money you give or how much time you donate, can ultimately impact the donor more than the person receiving the donation. This is because the person giving often achieves more self fulfillment than the person receiving. Here inlies the reason G-d told the Jewish people to “take” a donation and not “make” a donation.  To “take” a donation implies that by making a donation it would have a greater positive impact on the donor than it would the person receiving the donation, leading to self fulfillment of the benefactor.

In the past, I have donated my time to charities that benefit the homeless of Toronto. I have found that by donating time I feel a greater sense of self fulfillment than by donating money. By donating time everybody can increase their personal wealth, even without having increased monetary wealth. This is an important lesson to teach, because I believe that too few people realize the power of donation, no matter the size or contribution.

Jayson is a second year Bio-Medical Science student. He is part of the Jewish Education committee on Hillel. His favourite Hillel event this year was Coffee House.