How do you feel about Jewish charitable events? How many times have you gone to an auction and came home with items you never used?
At a recent fundraiser for my daughter’s preschool, my husband bid on a dull gift basket that consisted of a few male-centric board games that we would never play. With my luck we were outbid on a Burke William’s gift card and ended up being the only bidders on the game gift basket. After a few good days of poking fun at my husband about our “prize,” I finally admitted that what we brought home from the auction was insignificant. What mattered most was the spirit of coming together with our friends and family to support the preschool program.
Parashat Vayakhel gives us some insight into giving open-heartedly to the community. Moses calls on the Israelites to bring various gifts of metals, gems, yarns, linens, and incenses to construct the Mishkan, or Tabernacle. Though Moses makes his appeal to the entire community, the offerings are not forced. Moses says,
Take from among you gifts to the Lord, everyone whose heart so moves him shall bring them—gifts for the Lord (Exodus 35:5).
The biblical text identifies that only those whose hearts move them are required to bring precious donations. Variants of the phraseנדב לבו , “whose hearts moved them,” is repeated throughout the parashah to emphasize an important distinction in giving. There are gifts that come out of a feeling of obligation, and there are gifts that are given because they come from the heart. The individual is moved by the spirit of giving and does not concern himself with what he may receive in return.
I’ve come to enjoy fundraising events. The power I feel joining my friends to enhance our community is what philanthropy is really about.