Our Torah portion this week starts off not with a commandment, but a suggestion,
“Take up a collection from among yourselves—anyone whose heart makes him willing is to bring the offering for Adonai.” (Exodus 35:5)
This is of course in the context of the building of the tabernacle in the wilderness. The tabernacle and its concepts will, I believe, always be at least somewhat out of reach for our human minds. The reason I believe that is because there’s a part of it all that simply does not make sense. The purpose of the tabernacle was so that The Almighty, our Father, could dwell in our midst, to be with His chosen people. He designed a place for Him to dwell with His people, sinful though they be.
That itself is amazing to me, but to add to it, not only does He desire to be with us, but He gives us a chance to take part in His design. Imagine for a moment that you were one of the Egyptians that had decided to leave with the Hebrews. You, a once pagan Egyptian, having more gods than you could keep track of, are given a chance to leave the false life and follow the one true God. That would be an appropriate place for a dianu (“it would have been enough”). You then witness His divine protection against those chasing you. Dianu. He then tells you that not only are you brought out and protected, but you may choose to be a part of His family. And THEN, to top it off, He allows you to contribute to His house. That’s a long way from being a pagan, don’t you think? I can’t imagine how amazing it would be to be able to think of the menorah and say, “I helped make that.”
On the other hand, there may have been some who did not give. It’s easy to fool ourselves into thinking that we have a lot if we keep our wealth, but in reality, our wealth on this earth is temporary.
“Do not store up for yourselves wealth here on earth, where moths and rust destroy, and burglars break in and steal. Instead, store up for yourselves wealth in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and burglars do not break in or steal. For where your wealth is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19-21)
“No one can be slave to two masters; for he will either hate the first and love the second, or scorn the second and be loyal to the first. You can’t be a slave to both God and money.” (Matthew 6:24)
The account in our Haftarah speaks about Solomon building the temple and the glory of God descending and dwelling there. If you do not currently do it, I would encourage you to find a ministry that is righteous and God fearing, and support it. It is a blessing to be a blessing and to take part in supporting people who do the work of ministry. And it doesn’t have to be financially. God has blessed everyone with a gift, and you using the gift He gave you is valuable as well. God has called us to be His people, and the more we contribute to the building of His community, the more His Spirit will be found among us. His glory will fall, the question is: will we have part in it?