D'vrei Torah by Rabbi Ellie Shemtov
You can only keep what you have by giving it away
The expression “pay it forward,” is believed to have been coined by author Lily Hardy Hammond in her 1916 novel, In the Garden of Delight when she wrote: “You don’t pay love back; you pay it forward.” When someone pays it forward it means they respond to one act of kindness by performing another act of kindness for someone else rather than repay the original good deed. That single act of kindness has the power to create a cascade of charitable deeds and positively impact how we interact with each other. In the words of Winston Churchill, “we make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give.”
In this week’s Torah portion Terumah, God directs the Israelites through Moses to build a Mishkan, a portable tabernacle where God can dwell among them and where they can offer sacrifices to God. To help fund the building of the Mishkan, God instructs the people to give of themselves-- to pay it forward by offering gifts given to them by the Egyptians as they the Israelites, left Egypt. These possessions include: זָהָב וָכֶסֶף וּנְחֹֽשֶׁת וּתְכֵלֶת וְאַרְגָּמָן וְתוֹלַעַת שָׁנִי וְשֵׁשׁ וְעִזִּֽים – gold, silver, and copper, blue, purple, and crimson yarns, fine linen, and goats’ hair. (Ex. 25:3-4)
After living their lives as slaves the Israelites are now being shown a path that will move them closer to God. In order to navigate that path, they will need to give of themselves and their possessions. In so doing the Israelites will not only create a space for God to dwell among them, but they will come to appreciate how You can only keep what you have by giving it away.