In this week’s parasha G-d instructs the Jews of that generation to build the Mishkan – the Tabernacle. The verse writes (Terumah 25:2): “Veyikchu li terumah,” “And you shall take a donation for Me” – in order to build the Mishkan. Why does the Torah describe a person’s donation as “taking”? Surely, it should have said: “And you should give a donation for Me,” i.e. in order to build the house of G-d?
The answer is that the building of the Mishkan was another step in building the relationship between the Jewish People and G-d. Relationships are built by giving of oneself, whether one gives one’s money, time resources or desires for the sake of the other person. The other person may be one’s wife, child or a friend. The more effort one puts into giving, the more one will end up gaining from the relationship, as a deeper, closer and more meaningful bond will be formed.
The Torah instructed that the Mishkan be built only from donations given out of goodwill. People would come forward and donate materials precious to them for the building of an earthly abode, in which G-d’s presence could reside. This is described as “taking”, since the more one gives of oneself for G-d and His commandments, the more one is essentially going to receive. The more we sacrifice of our time, resources and desires for the sake of Heaven, the more
we are, in reality, receiving. We are enabling G-d to give us of His bounty and to fill our spiritual bank accounts, guaranteeing us a good place in the next world. Furthermore, we are nurturing our connection with G-d in this world, giving us quality of life.
Our earthly bodies and desires constantly magnetise us towards physicality, causing our real goal and mission in this world to lose our focus. Counteracting our physical nature, that pulls us towards egotism and self-centredness, requires a battle. A person may have to exert energy in order to learn Torah, despite his feelings of tiredness. He may need to push himself to donate the money that he earned to charity, and to speak respectfully, even though he may not be “in the mood” to do so. We should make the effort to listen to another person’s sorrows, even though it is “stealing” from our precious time. By giving of ourselves, we become more in touch with our true essence, having fed our neshamah and nurtured our relationship with G-d.
It is not always easy to overcome our physicality, evil inclinations or desires. Yet, if we stop and consider how much we will be gaining by complying with the divine will, whether it is the improved connection with our neshamah or our eternal reward, this may certainly be an impetus for us to do so. Additionally, there may be some cause or person for whom we feel, e.g. a close relative, who needs a salvation, either financially or health-wise. We may decide to use this opportunity to give of ourselves in their merit. In this case, our feelings towards them acts as leverage for us to bring ourselves to give to others.
Let us try making a point, three times a day, to “give of ourselves” to do a mitzvah, whether between “man and G-d” or “man and his fellow man”, and enjoy the taste of the connection that we gain.