By Rabbi Mordechai Levin
Published by the Omaha World Herald – March 9, 2013
This week, we read in the Hebrew Bible about the building of the Tabernacle, the provisional sanctuary that accompanied our ancestors during their journey in the desert from Egypt to the land of Israel. Moses asked the people to contribute different materials (Exodus 35:5): “”Take from among you gifts to the Lord; everyone whose heart so moves him shall bring them.””
And a remarkable thing happened. The generosity of the people exceeded Moses’ expectations. So impressive was the stream of voluntary offerings that the craftsmen working on the Tabernacle said to Moses (Exodus 36:5): “The people are bringing more than is needed, for the tasks entailed in the work, that the Lord has commanded to be done.”” Then Moses made the following proclamation throughout the camp (Exodus 36:6): “Let no man or woman make further effort toward gifts for the sanctuary!”
That people would respond generously when asked for help is the dream of every individual in need and every non-profit organization. Can you imagine, whether for a food bank, a shelter for the homeless or any other non-profit, people being so extraordinarily generous that they would be asked to stop giving? And of course, this type of generosity is not limited to financial contributions; we can also give of our compassion and our advice, our time and our talents.
However, this story also illustrates the importance of having an open heart. Moses asked people to follow their hearts and give what they could. Before we can give, our hearts must be open, empathetic to the personal needs of individuals and the community. Each of us cares about different causes, and it is vital for us to commit our hearts and decide to make a difference.