Imagine the scene. Moses calls to the entire Israelite community, not long after leaving Egypt and receiving the Torah at Mount Sinai, to offer gifts for the construction of God’s first sanctuary, the mishkan. The people bring a remarkable array of precious metals, fabrics, animal skins, and precious stones—all from a group of people who had just fled after four hundred years of slavery!
Strikingly, Moses frames these gifts as gifts of the heart “kol ish asher yidvenu libo,” “everyone whose heart is moved” (Exodus 25:2), and ends with the striking statement that the desert tabernacle is to be a sanctuary which will allow the divine presence to. The sequence of the verses suggests a causal relationship, as if God had intentionally said, “If you bring Me gifts, I will dwell among you.” In our community, too, the presence of the divine is a function of the gifts that we bring to the community to help make it sacred.
Our synagogue exists because members step forward every day with acts of generosity. Some make monetary donations to assure the continuity and well-being of the community. Some contribute gifts of time—visiting the sick and the bereaved, welcoming newcomers, serving on congregational boards and committees, helping the office staff with routine and essential tasks, serving food after services on Shabbat, and so many more.
I am all in favor of financial contributions to our synagogue, and building our new campus will need those contributions from you without any doubt, but at the same time, it is the gifts of self – the offering of our own generous hearts “yidvenu libo”– that are the most precious resources on which the life of the synagogue depends. The Sefat Emet (the Rebbe of Ger, late 19th Century) finds in the Torah’s description of the mishkan a beautiful piece of wisdom about community life. The rebbe suggests that each person brought a unique gift to the collective effort of building the mishkan. Everyone contributed what they had, and the result was a miraculously beautiful and sacred whole. May our congregation, and our new synagogue be a modern reflection of this first sanctuary.
Rabbi Adrian M Schell (Source: Elmad.Pardes.Org)