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Rabbi Ari Enkin

By Rabbi Ari Enkin, Rabbinic Director, United with Israel

God promises us many blessings for giving money to charity, and we reap the exponentially greater benefits and dividends for doing so.

This week’s Torah portion is Teruma (Exodus 25:1-27:19), which means “donation”. The Jewish people are commanded to contribute their precious belongings such as fabrics, gold, silver, jewelry, oil, spices, and more — in order to build the Mishkan. The Mishkan, often translated as “Tabernacle”, was the portable synagogue that the Jews carried around with them during their 40-year journey in the desert.

There is a famous question that is asked by many of the commentators: Why does the Torah say: “Tell the Children of Israel to TAKE for me a Teruma (donation)…” when discussing the donations for the Mishkan? Shouldn’t it say: “Tell the Children of Israel to GIVE to me Teruma”? When one donates money to charity, is one GIVING money to the charity, or is the charity TAKING one’s money? I would think it’s the former! What going on here?!

Our sages teach us that when we give to tzedaka, charity, we actually reap – take more than we’ve given. God promises us many blessings for giving money to charity, and we reap the exponentially greater benefits and dividends for doing so. Indeed, this is the case with most mitzvot; the benefits outweigh the investment. For example, by your kids seeing you honor your parents, they’ll be more inclined to honor you; spending a few minutes studying Torah can change you for years; who knows what the result of a smile to a stranger will get you.

The story is told of a poor Scottish farmer named Hugh Fleming. One day, he heard someone calling for help from a nearby bog. The fellow ran to see what was going on. He found a scared young lad who was stuck in the swampy mud and was trying to free himself. Fleming saved the boy from what might have been a horrible death.

The next day, a fancy entourage arrived on the grounds of Fleming’s farm. An elegantly dressed, dignified individual stepped out of the carriage and introduced himself as the father of the boy he had saved yesterday.

“I want to repay you” said the nobleman. “You saved my son’s life!”

“I’m not interested in payment” said Fleming. “Good day to you Sir.”

At that moment Fleming’s son came on to the scene. The son didn’t look good. He looked dirty, malnourished, torn clothes – the works.

“Is that your son?” the Nobleman asked.

“Yes” Fleming replied.

“I want to make you a deal” said the Nobleman. “Let me take your son. I will provide for him and give him a good education. Ill make sure you’ll be very proud of your son some day.”

And indeed it was.

After some years, Fleming’s son graduated from St. Mary’s hospital Medical School in London and went on to become the world famous “Sir Alexander Fleming” – the one who founded Penicillin.

Oh yeah. And who was the nobleman: Lord Randolph Churchill. And his son? Sir Winston Churchill.

You see folks, you just never know how far a good deed will TAKE you.

Shabbat Shalom from Israel!