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Give your life a raise

Friday, 19 February, 2021 - 3:47 pm


The contemporary Jew has always faced a certain tension when trying to integrate Judaism with their modern lifestyle. And when we start reading about seemingly antiquated practices it certainly makes it all the more challenging. What, with discussions about the Tabernacle that the Jewish people built in the desert and the sacrifices that were offered there, I mean - seems to me like you couldn’t get more irrelevant than that!

Tabernacle? Sacrifices? Huh? How can that have relevance to me? Especially since it’s been destroyed and out of service for almost 3000 years.

Consider this however, if your life is like most people, it tends to be a whirl of activities and we’re often busy. There always seems to be something going on, whether it’s work, school or family responsibilities - or occasionally the required vacation. We never truly get a moment to reflect. 

But once in a while, on the rare occasion that we do have the opportunity to reflect, a gnawing sense of emptiness creeps in: what’s it all worth anyway? I work, often hard, long and difficult hours. True I earn the means to support myself and my family but what is it all about anyway - is this the entirety of it? Slave away until I wither away?

The Tabernacle narrative can shed some light and help us elevate our lives. In this week’s Torah portion we are introduced to the Grand Tabernacle Building Project headed up by Moses himself. And the very first item on the agenda? Of course, like any building project worth its salt, donations. 

The word used to refer to the donations (also the name of this week’s Torah portion) is significant: Terumah. It translates as donation, but truly it means much more than donation. It means elevation; to “raise up.” 

By contributing a portion of their wealth toward this holy building project, they elevated their money - and by extension - their lives. It demonstrated that their life was not simply a selfish experience, work and earn money for their own self centered purpose. Rather it included an elevated and inspired need too, the building of a home for G-d in this world.

By giving away a portion of their wealth they demonstrated that they are not the center of all, that there is a higher purpose, a higher calling. 

Their life was not just about them.

The key to creating a life that feels fuller and more worthwhile is to dedicate a portion of our wealth (and energy and time etc.) to a higher purpose. Giving tzedakah is not just about the recipient, it’s about the giver. And it’s the first step to relieving the tension that exists between the Jew and the world we inhabit. 

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