It’s great when the Torah reading cycle gives us subliminal messages. Here’s what I mean: last week, when we read a special maftir in anticipation of Purim, we learned about the standard mandatory contribution for the upkeep of the sanctuary–the half-shekel. “The rich shall pay no more and the poor shall pay no less than half a shekel” (Exodus 30:15).
Now, this week, we learn in Parshat Terumah about the manner of giving that built the mishkan so that there would be something to upkeep: “You shall accept gifts for Me from every person whose heart so moves him” (Exodus 25:2). A terumah is a free-will offering, as it were, a financial contribution with a potentially unlimited scope.
So which is a more meaningful way to give–the voluntary contribution, or the poll tax? I’m quite sure what most people would answer; I’m just not sure they’re correct. “Greater is the one who is commanded and does than the one who isn’t commanded and does,” says the Talmud (Bavli Bava Kamma 87a).
This Shabbat, I’ll be exploring this idea, not in terms of financial support, but on the subject of support of causes that identify us as Conservative Jews. In particular, we’ll look at the upcoming elections of the World Zionist Congress. To help you think about this important event in the worldwide Zionist experience, I encourage you to look at the most important documents in the history of modern Zionism. You can find those documents here.
Stay warm and we’ll look at the positive impact of MERCAZ on the State of Israel in shul!
Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi David Wise