Bring Me Gifts                                                             [1]

The gifts enumerated are: gold, silver, and copper (or brass/bronze); cloth dyed blue, purple and maroon; fine white linen; stones for the choshen); tanned skins and acacia wood, etc.

If we take this in the crassest literal sense, we’re to worship G-d by material donations! Although such donations are necessary for building and maintaining sites used for religious activity, they should glorify G-d, not the donors.

On a subtler level, we’re asked to donate things of value as expressions of our respect (at least) for G-d. The more valuable, and the more willingly they’re given, the more that the donation of them becomes a form of sacrifice itself. If we walked by an anonymous homeless person in the street, we might give a small amount (if anything at all), without stopping or giving much attention to what we’re doing (which is not to say that we shouldn’t do more). If we walked by our favorite movie star lying hurt in the street, we’d drop everything and do whatever we could; take off our jacket; call 911; and so on. If we’d give so much, so willingly, to a helpless movie star, then kal v’homer, we should give at least as much, and as willingly, to G-d.

But it seems to me that the gifts aren’t about what’s of value to us; they’re about what’s of value to G-d. Does G-d like gold better than silver? We might. Does G-d like certain cloths and colors better than others? We might. But G-d doesn’t need us to give what’s His to begin with.

“All gold and silver belong to G-d, but the willingness of the heart is ours to give.” [2]

Rather, I think that each gift represents an act in which we impart value to G-d. G-d’s value is absolute, of course. But each of us “imparts” value to G-d by the importance that we give G-d in our lives.

Formal Jewish prayer begins this way, by blessing G-d before we introduce our requests (e.g. the opening blessings of the Amidah).

Contemplation, too, begins with considerations of G-d that supercede all human concerns (e.g. the first verses of “Adon Olam”).

G-d’s Love for us, here, is to ask us — allow us — in spite of our own weaknesses and failures and shortcomings, to give Him ultimate value in our lives.

“The word t’rumah (gift, offering) comes from a root [רום] meaning “to elevate”… [to imply that] the act of offering a gift to G-d evelates the donor to a higher level as well.” [3]

_____________________________________________________________________

[1] Shemot/Ex. 25:2

[2] Torat Mosheh; quoted in Plaut, G.; The Torah: A Modern Commentary; p. 557

[3] Etz Hayim: Torah and Commentary; p. 486 (based on Rabbi Levi Yitzhak of Berditschev)