By Didi Gilbert
Though Parshat T’rumah provides instructions regarding the building of the Mishkan – the Tabernacle and the Aron HaKodesh, the container in which the Torah is to be kept and revered, the lessons to be derived from this parasha are much broader. Moses informs the people that they are each expected to make a gift to the building of this special place and Holy Ark. Like many such acts of giving that are asked or required of us over a lifetime, there are many ways of giving. In T’rumah, the lesson imparted is to give something of deep personal value for a purpose that is in fact, greater than one’s self and by so doing, to act both for the benefit of the individual and the community.
In these verses, the people are asked to give gifts that will make the Mikshan and the Aron HaKodesh a thing of beauty, a place of respect, a place of pride and a place of love that will become a cherished part of community life. The Israelites are instructed to share something of themselves that will benefit the entire community. They are guided to give something that is meaningful, that comes from the heart and that has lasting value. “Tell the Israelite people to bring Me gifts; you shall accept gifts for Me from every person whose heart is so moved” (Exodus 25:2).
These requirements for giving remain a part of our understanding today when we make decisions about what we give, to whom and why. While Jewish custom teaches us that the highest form of giving should be anonymous, it also reminds us that, our giving should be with a deep commitment to the purpose for which it is intended.
Throughout our history, the mitzvah of giving tzedakah has been and remains one of the values that we as Jews espouse. It is through giving that we can feel fulfilled, that we become enablers as well as recipients. While Maimonides suggests the act of giving can take many forms including giving to the less fortunate, we have taken this to also mean giving to institutions and organizations that support our values such as ARZA.
Over the years since its founding, ARZA has made it possible, both through your membership commitment and your additional gifts to provide the basis and ongoing support to the building of the Reform Movement in Israel. There is passion in this undertaking on the part of both donors and recipients. There is visible evidence of the beauty being created, not only in Israel in new Reform synagogues and schools that encourage pluralism, democracy, education, human rights and a love of Jewish values, but in the observance by our families and friends of the values that fit with our 21st century way of life.
As partners in building a strong Reform Jewish identity in Israel and as models for the Jewish identity that we want our children and their children to accept and cherish l’dor va dor, “from generation to generation,” we are enjoined to consider the value of our contributions to the future of our people, as did the Israelites who built the Mishkan and the Aron HaKodesh. We are encouraged to give generously to ensure the vitality of our heritage through the millennia to come.
ARZA is the mechanism through which we in Reform Jewish America continue to participate in strengthening our Jewish heritage in partnership with our Israeli counterparts, to giving meaning to our desire livnot u-l’hibanot, “to build and be built by,” the continued and ongoing life of a strong, democratic and pluralistic Israel.
Didi Gilbert is the current Vice Chair of Finance for ARZA, and Treasurer of ARZENU – the worldwide umbrella for ARZA’s in 15 countries.