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"For Instruction shall come forth from Zion, The word of the L-rd from Jerusalem." -- Isaiah 2:3


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EXODUS — 25:1 saying

In Judaism, we will see that not only must a person withhold information that was specifically told in confidence, but even information that was not told "confidentially" must also not be revealed. Why, in the Talmud Yoma 4b after calling Moses, does G-d use the expression "saying" followed by the phrase "Speak to the children of Israel"? Leviticus 1:1-2 It is obvious that if G-d calls Moses to speak to him and uses the phrase leimor, "saying," that this is intended for the people. Why then add the extra words, "Speak to the people"? The answer is that without that last phrase telling Moses to tell it over to the people, Moses would be prohibited from telling the Jewish people what G-d had said. Only when there is specific permission to tell information, may it then be repeated to another. Without that permission, even if not spoken in confidence, it would be forbidden to tell the facts of the conversation. Thus, in Judaism, all information is, in its essence, considered confidential. One need not say "Keep this confidential" to indicate secrecy. This concept is also discussed in detail by the Or Hachaim Commentary Exodus 25:1-2 on the first occasion (of the hundreds of occasions) where this double phraseology of "saying" and "Tell the People of Israel" is mentioned in the Torah [this verse]. Rashi commentary on Yoma 4b then reinterprets the word leimor, "saying," to mean two other Hebrew words, lo amar, you shall not reveal. Therefore, this word tells us that no information may be revealed to another unless explicit consent to do so is granted.

EXODUS — 25:2 among

The concept of generous and spontaneous giving from the heart appears in the Torah in the section where the Israelites undertake to build a sanctuary so that G-d might dwell among them. Rabbi Meir Leibush [known as the Malbim (1809-1879)] commented that [this] verse actually means that G-d would dwell not literally in the sanctuary building but among the people. He concludes that each person is to build a tabernacle in his or her own heart for G-d to dwell in. The Torah wants us to see that the way we do this inner construction work is by perfecting spontaneous generosity. Because we live in a money-centric culture, we tend to think of generosity only as a question of reaching into our wallets. But as with all soul-traits, generosity is a quality of the soul and so it can find expression in many ways. You can be generous with money and also with your time, your energy, and your possessions. The one who gives terumah gives because his or her heart is so inflamed with magnanimity that it would be painful not to give, and the heart finds a way to respond spontaneously, whether with money, time, materials, or in any other way.

EXODUS — 25:2 gifts

The construction of the Sanctuary was fundamentally important because it gave the Israelites the chance to give back to G-d. Later decisors of Jewish law recognized that giving is an integral part of human dignity when they made the remarkable ruling that even a poor person completely dependent on charity is still obliged to give charity (Rambam, Mishneh Torah, Kilkhot Shekalim 1:1; Hilkhot Matnot Aniyim 7:5). To be in a situation where you can only receive, but not give, is to lack human dignity. The Mishkan became the home of the Divine Presence because G-d specified that it be built only out of voluntary contributions. Giving creates a gracious society by enabling each of us to make our contribution to the public good. That is why the building of the Sanctuary was the cure for the sin of the Golden Calf. The people that only received but could not give was trapped in dependency and lack of self-respect. G-d allowed people to come close to Him, and He to them, by giving them the chance to give. That is why a society based on rights, not responsibilities, based on what we claim from -- not what we give to-- others, will always eventually go wrong. It is why the most important gift a parent can give a child is a chance to give back. The etymology of the word teruma hints at this. It means, not simply a contribution, but literally something "raised up." When we give, it is not just our contribution but we who are raised up. We survive by what we are given, but we achieve dignity by what we give

EXODUS — 25:2 heart

The Jewish tradition distinguishes between two types of generosity. The first is the giving that comes because your heart is so moved that without even the flicker of a thought your hand rushes to dig into your pocket to give. In the Torah, this generosity is called t'rumah, which means "gift." Generosity of this sort comes neither from obligation nor rational thought nor guilt but out of an irresistible feeling that stirs deep within. It's a movement of the soul and it generates an open-handed response. The other kind of generosity, called tzedakah, is obligated giving, such as tithing, whether or not the heart is moved to act in that way. The overall goal of Mussar to help us fulfill our potential to really live as the holy souls we are, and it is impossible to imagine that we will shine forth in holiness if we act only from a sense of obligation. The passion and the flowering of the heart must be so much more. To move toward holiness, you must yearn for it. You must be propelled by a spiritual willingness--nedivut ha'lev--a generosity of the heart. .... these two forms of generosity are not so distinct as we might suppose.

EXODUS — 25:2 offering

"He that is gracious unto the poor, lendeth unto the Lord", sang the Psalmist [Ps. 19:17]. Social Ethics echo this refrain by teaching us how to become "G-d's bankers". When a Roman governor inquired of Rabbi Akiba: "Why does your G-d, for whom you claim such loving concern for His creatures, not Himself provide for the poor?" The reply was: "Charity makes wealth a means of salvation. G-d wishes us to help one another and thus to convert this earthly life into a period of character-molding." Our blessings must be regarded as opportunities for serving G-d and helping man. Why, asks one teacher, do the words "that they take for Me an offering "[this verse] follow so closely on the words: "And they said: 'All that the Lord hath spoken we will do, and obey'"? [Exodus 24:7] To show Israel that the best way to obey the Torah is to give offerings of all we have, as well as to emphasize that our affirmations must be backed by our readiness to give.

EXODUS — 25:2 tsedakah

The word Tsedakah means something more than charity; it means to do right and in the best possible way. It is a basic principle of Social Ethics to provide for the welfare of all and to each according to his need. As one of the three pillars on which society rests, [Avot i.2], kindness can be regarded as a virtue only if it be practiced in secret [See B.B. 10b; Ps. xli.1] and not regarded as almsgiving to be dispensed grudgingly. In the Torah, giving to holy causes is dignified by the word Terumah [this verse] ("uplifting"). Since each of us needs the ennoblement which true kindness fosters, it is a virtue from which even he, who himself is dependent on charity, is not exempt [Gitt. 7b]. The Rabbis ruled it is better to give nothing rather than bring a blush to the recipient of alms. [Hag. 5a]. The word Tsedakah is comprehensive, including any deed leading to the alleviation of the afflicted and resulting in a sweetening of human relationships. True charity bestows as well as receives; "more than the householder does for the needy, the needy does for the householder" [Lev R. xxiv.8].

EXODUS — 25:3 gifts

When we give directly to a needy person, it is well to be discreet and inconspicuous. If the needy one does not meet you or learn your identity, so much the better. But amid a group making contributions or pledges, put modesty aside, for what you do influences others. In fact, herein lies the power and effectiveness of the public appeal: everyone becomes somewhat subject to public scrutiny. The cause is made explicit; its urgency is explained. And as others respond, you must ponder your heart and your conscience, aware that what you do or fail to do will be significant.

EXODUS — 25:8 dwell

Lest such a conception of a monotheistic G-d, described both as immanent and transcendent, appear to the rational mind as contradictory or mutually exclusive, it is necessary to add that to logic of the Rabbis these two sides of the divine character were considered as complementary. When they beheld held in rapturous admiration the wonders of the universe, they described G-d as transcendental; when they witnessed the painful struggle with which human beings grappled with the problems of life, they pronounced Him to be immanent. This immanence was impressed upon the Jew by the teaching that His presence (Shechinah) and His Holy Spirit (Ruah Ha'kodesh) fill the earth whenever sincere attempts are made to plant the sublime amidst the prosaic and the mundane [this verse]. G-d is at once above the universe and, at the same time, the very soul of the universe. The link is the inflation of His Spirit and His abiding Presence, His Ruah Ha'kodesh and His Shechinah. This must be remembered when discussing the duties Judaism has assigned to man in the worship of his Creator.

EXODUS — 25:8 dwell

Life to-day issues a challenge to men of goodwill of all nations to unite and present the world with an ethical programme of conduct. In this task Judaism must play a conspicuous part. It was a Jewish teacher [Hillel the Elder] who, nearly two thousand years ago, made G-d exclaim to Israel [Sukk. 53a; this verse]: "If you come to My house, then shall I go to yours." Life will be worthwhile and safe only if our daily actions are motivated by holiness and if the heavenly pattern of life be reflected on earth. The aim of Jewish ethics is not to distinguish the Jew from among those around him so much by racial, social or political features but to mark him out by his spiritual characteristics.

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