Terumah: Giving to Please G-d
In this week’s portion, Terumah, G-d addresses Moses and tells him that he should ask the Israelites for contributions. Importantly, G-d only seeks contributions from those who sincerely want to give. Why does this distinction matter? It reminds us that our intention and our attitude in giving is just as important as the act itself. The word in Hebrew for this kind of contribution translates to “elevating the name of G-d.” This is what we do when we give from the correct place! And when we give, we always benefit more than the recipient of our charity: after all, in making a genuine contribution, we bring G-d’s energy down to this world.
This portion also sees Moses construct the tabernacle, a place of worship for the Israelites as they travel through the desert. He does this because G-d tells him that, if he constructs a tabernacle, G-d will live amongst the Israelites. This is a big deal. Think about it: if you could stay in a luxury 5 star hotel, would you settle for anything less? Would you consider a shabby motel with bad reviews? It’s unlikely! Wonderful as the world is, it certainly has many shortcomings when compared to the Divine realm.
In the Divine realm, G-d lives in perfection alongside the angels, so why not stay there in bliss forever? Instead, G-d is willing to leave everything behind in response to Moses’ offering. Through this, we learn an important lesson: when we make a contribution, it’s really for us. The tabernacle was not for the benefit of the Divine; it was for the Israelites to receive the Divine.
After all, giving is the vehicle that brings G-d’s energy into the world. It is also the vessel that contains it. We desperately need this vessel because G-d’s energy is so powerful it would otherwise burn us — that’s why it’s so important to give. Remember, when we build a vessel by giving, we free up space to receive our gifts from the Creator. However, when we give, it’s important that we’re not focused on what we are going to get for it. Making a contribution is not a business deal, and it shouldn’t be our way to impress people either. Instead, we should give with our full hearts and with excitement, knowing we are pleasing G-d. This is how we can manifest endless goodness.
Who should we give to? Although our first instinct may be to give to the good people around us, we are also encouraged to give to those that we consider bad. “The righteous man must chase the wicked one and buy them at full price.” What does this mean? It means that we must give generously to terrible people, as this is the only way to reach them and change them for the better. It’s not an easy thing to do; however, it’s an action that the Creator respects hugely.
People are so much more receptive to the idea of change after you have shared with them and shown your sincerity. It’s one way you can really make a difference. Why not consider the people in your life that you’ve labeled “impossible to reach” and then challenge yourself to give generously to them? The impact of your actions may not be immediately obvious, but either way G-d will see and recognize your effort. Even if you have done wrong things in the past, judgement against you will disappear when you give to wicked people. Once again, you will benefit more than those who receive from you.
A common response to this plea for giving is to say “I have no money.” Another is to say “I have no money; what can I do?” You can guess which is the best response! Money is not all you can share with people, is it? You can also share time, jokes, wisdom. You can share Vital Transformation materials and support the spiritual growth of others. Money is a fantastic contribution, of course, but it is not the only one. Lack of money is no excuse not to share.
This week, we also reflect on the teachings of Shabbat Zachor. This is the Shabbat of removing illusion. What illusion does it refer to, and who created it? Who could be tricking us into false beliefs? The nation of Amalek, of course. This is a nation that wants to deny the Divine and prove G-d wrong. We can see the work of Amalek manifest in our own lives whenever we succumb to chaos, whenever we credit ourselves with our own happiness, and whenever the fire that drives our spiritual work begins to cool. It is the curtain between us and the Creator, preventing a direct connection.
However, there’s no need to judge yourself if Amalek has you under attack. Instead, you should work to remove this influence from your soul. There are strategies to do this. Think: How can you use spirituality to find meaning in what feels chaotic? How can you show gratitude to the Creator for all that you enjoy? How can you rediscover your excitement for your spiritual work? These are important questions to contemplate. Don’t, through complacency, end up comfortable with the curtain. If you do, you’ll forget all the glory that lies beyond it.
Lastly, it’s important to remind you that right now is the perfect time to call upon Moshe’s help. If you have pain at the soul level; for example, with anger or jealousy, we advise you to light a candle today and write down the ways in which you are suffering. This is a miraculous moment in which incredible cures are possible, so make the most of it. Also, why not give by sharing this message with a friend? By helping yourself and helping others, you too can please G-d.