Have you heard “Mitzvah” translated as a “good deed?” That’s incorrect, and this week’s reading proves it: not every good deed is a Mitzvah!
A Mitzvah is something we are Commanded to do, from “Tzivui,” a command. When it comes to the donations for building the Mishkan, the Tabernacle in the desert, the Torah never actually gives Israel a Commandment to give; rather, it simply tells Israel that “they shall collect a donation for me, from every person whose heart moves him you shall collect My donation” [Exodus 25:2]. And then, the reading goes on to describe to us what Israel was able to accomplish.
Now, I do not mean to say that there is no Commandment to give. The word used here for donation, Terumah, is the same used for allocating a portion of one’s crop for the Kohanim, the priests. But even there, no amount is specified (the Rabbis do specify the standards for generous, normative and miserly portions). We are supposed to give what we can, and to learn to give frequently on behalf of many causes.
I must add at this juncture that our raffle, a critical fundraiser for us, is not performing nearly as well as last year; I’m not sure why, but I do believe that I have insufficiently expressed our gratitude to all those who have given in previous years, and whose support we do need once again — and those who have not yet been able to give have similarly not heard from us how important it truly is for our ability to reach you all. We are blessed to hear from Jews all around the world every day and to offer individual guidance, while also continuing to improve our websites and ability to reach people.
If you are moved to help, we truly need to hear from you. If you wish to simply make a donation, that’s wonderful as well! And a good way to put the lessons of this week’s reading into immediate practice.
Our obligation is to duplicate G-d, who is boundless in his generosity; we are left with the task of learning to open our hands, to be generous with others, in accordance with our ability. The Ohr HaChaim writes that when a person is a “Nediv Lev,” of a giving heart, we can be assured that he or she will do what he or she can. And G-d Himself testifies that this is “My donation,” this is a person giving what he or she is able to give.