דַּבֵּר֙ אֶל־בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל וְיִקְחוּ־לִ֖י תְּרוּמָ֑ה מֵאֵ֤ת כָּל־אִישׁ֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר יִדְּבֶ֣נּוּ לִבּ֔וֹ תִּקְח֖וּ אֶת־תְּרוּמָתִֽי
“Tell the Israelite people to bring Me gifts; you shall accept gifts for Me from every person whose heart so moves them.” (Exodus 25:2)
Every person must bring gifts—but not all gifts are to be accepted. How would you feel if, after selecting a few items from among your precious, scarce possessions, you brought them to the mishkan and were rejected? If you were told you could not help build the dwelling place of God and center of ritual practice because your contribution did not come from your lev, from your heart?
We all have different reasons we contribute to projects in our communities. Sometimes the guilt of our fortunate circumstances motivates us, and we alleviate that feeling through giving our wealth to just causes. Sometimes, our giving is initiated by a sense of obligation, a belief that we are commanded to invest in Jewish institutions and philanthropic endeavors. And sometimes we give purely because we see a need and desire to fill it. Sometimes, we give from the heart.
Rebbe Simcha Bunim Alter applies the concept of na’aseh v’nishma, we will do and we will hear, to the above verse of Parshat Terumah:
כיוון שאמרו ישראל נעשה ונשמע, מיד אמר הקב"ה למשה ויקחו לי תרומה. פירוש הדבר: מצוות צדקה צריכים לעשות בלי התחשבות יתירה, בלי שיקולים, אלא נעשה ואחר כך נשמע. כי אם יחשוב וישקולקודם, לעולם לא יגיע ל"נעשה".
Since Israel said ‘we will do and we will listen’, the Holy Blessed One immediately said to Moshe, ‘and you must take terumah for me’. An explanation of the matter: the commandment of tzedakah requires action without excessive contemplation, without excessive consideration, but rather to ‘do’ and afterwards to ‘listen’. This is because if one contemplates and considers beforehand, one will never arrive at ‘we will do’.
Giving, Rabbi Alter explains, is something we must get into the habit of just doing. If we overthink our impulse to give to a person or organization, we will come up with better ways to use our money and will be less likely to part with it. Before our mind begins to turn with warnings of careful spending, we must reach out our hand and give.
In this way, it doesn’t matter whether your original motivation to give comes from guilt, obligation, or desire. All that matters is that you strive to be generous with your resources, to be someone who donates money and energy to the causes that deserve support. Over a life well lived, your desire to give will only grow.
Where the hand gives, the heart will follow.