This week's portion begins with the verse, "Speak to the Children of Israel and take for Me a 'teruma'." (Ex. 25:2) The word "teruma" is broadly translated as "contribution". G‑d is telling the Jewish people that they should contribute gold, silver and copper towards the building of the Tabernacle. The word "teruma" actually has two different meanings: "separating" and "elevating" (see the Targum and Rashi). These two explanations are related because as a person separates from his possessions for a sanctified purpose, he is also elevating them from their physicality to a higher spiritual dimension. The Alter Rebbe said that the Almighty sustains a person's physical needs in order that the person will take the physical and transform it into spiritual. Had I made my world one where all were equal…who would give tzedaka?

Why does the verse specifically use the expression, "take for Me", connoting that the taking of the contribution should be for G‑d's sake, and not "give to Me", i.e. that the giving should be for G‑d's sake? The Lubavitcher Rebbe explains that this teaches us that the poor person who receives tzedaka must accept it, i.e. "take it", for the sake of heaven. The Midrash says that G‑d said to King David, "Had I made my world one where all were equal, [that all were wealthy or all were poor...], who would practice kindness?; who would give tzedaka, and who would have lent to the poor?" The entire reason that the Almighty created rich and poor people was in order that there should be the activities of tzedaka and kindness in the world. Therefore, the intention of the poor person when he receives a contribution should be that he is accepting it, not only because he needs it, but also because through his acceptance he is fulfilling a purpose of Creation.

The poor person, the receiver, needs this reminder more than the wealthy person who gives. The wealthy person is giving money that he struggled for, so when he gives it is presumably for the sake of the mitzvah, and not for some personal gain. This is particularly true when the contribution is given anonymously. The poor person, on the other hand, is not required to have heavenly intentions at all in his part. Why does he accept the funds? Because he needs them. Therefore, the verse teaches us that even receiving should be for the sake of heaven.

Money is not the only area where taking is sometimes uncomfortable. Whether a piece of advice or a kindness, it is often as important to receive as to give. A person has to remember that everything in the world is divine providence.

Tzedaka is unlike other mitzvot. With prayer, for instance, a little with proper intention is better than a lot without. However, it is better for a person to give a lot of tzedaka without proper intention rather than a little with all the concentration in the world, since the main purpose of tzedaka is to help and save another. Once, a very generous person thought to stop giving such large amounts because it made him proud to do so. His Rebbe forbade him saying, "No matter what you feel, the poor still need to eat." Make for Me a Mikdash, a sanctuary, and I will dwell among them…

In one of the most eloquent verses in our Torah, G‑d declares to the Jewish People, "Make for Me a Mikdash, a sanctuary, and I will dwell among them". (Ex. 25:8) The verse does not say "in it", i.e. in the sanctuary, but "in them", meaning in the Jewish people. The Abrabanel explains that the building of the sanctuary and its vessels was to give the Divine Presence a dwelling place in the physical world, in the midst of the Jewish nation. We Jews are not like those of other spiritual paths, in which there is a separation between spiritual truth and life in the world - where the heavens are G‑d's throne but here on earth we are alone. The Shelah derives from this verse that even after the destruction of the Holy Temple, G‑d is still with us in the 4 feet of spiritual energy that emanates from involvement in halacha (Jewish religious law) that surrounds every person. This is the spiritual temple that exists in each of us. The Rebbe Rayatz of Lubavitch demands that we focus on revealing and arousing this consciousness to become like the Temple - a burning torch and guiding light to others.

Three primary ways of service to G‑d are found in the Temple. The ark, where the two tablets of the covenant were located, is a hint to the Torah. The Temple itself, where the offerings were made, represents prayer (in fact, today, the daily prayers are in place of the daily offerings). The table with the show-bread demonstrates that G‑d showers us with His kindness, as we should perform acts of kindness, and tzedaka as well.

Shabbat Shalom, Shaul

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