“And let them make me a sanctuary that I may dwell among them.” (Exodus 23:8)
Parashat T’rumah sets forth the plans for building the mishkan, the Tabernacle. The mishkan’s importance is indicated by the level of detail included); the Torah takes three times as long to describe the construction of the mishkan as it does the creation of the world!
Of course, any capital project requires a capital campaign, and the mishkan is no exception. So the parasha opens with,” Tell the Israelite people to bring me gifts; you shall accept gifts from every person whose heart so moves him.” (Exodus 25:2) This verse can be understood on three levels (at least). First, asking for gifts means building the mishkan is a communal task. God can’t (or won’t) build it alone. Second, offering a gift and participating in the project is voluntary (as my father, o”h, would remind me,” They don’t have to give, and they don’t have to give to you.”). Moses’ task is to motivate the Israelites so that everybody’s heart is moved. Finally, gifts come in different shapes and forms. Building a mishkan certainly requires physical resources and the Torah lists all the precious items to be donated. But it also requires human resources so the question shifts from, “Do you want to give?” to, “What are you able to give?” Sweat equity counts too.
Ultimately, though, we don’t solicit gifts simply to build the mishkan, or the JCC simply to build. We solicit the gift to build community. And community comes out of recognizing the unique gift that each member can contribute.
Good Shabbos/Shabbat Shalom,
Dr. David Ackerman is the Director of JCC Association’s Mandel Center for Jewish Education.