Friday, March 10, 2023

Building a Foundation

No donation is too big, and no donation is too small. Every organization that needs to fundraise to operate has lived by this statement in one way or another. With some donors, the message needs to be that we appreciate every donation, no matter how small. With other donors, the message needs to be that we need more significant gifts to sustain and fuel the organization's success.  With that in mind, the beginning of our Parsha teaching us about the obligation to contribute to Machtzis Hashekel/ Half Shekel is quite bizarre. The Torah states that a wealthy person may not increase his contribution, and the poor may not ask for a scholarship. This defies any conventional fundraising that seeks to maximize donations from the affluent and will give the folks with limited means a break. (There was an additional reason for contributing a half shekel as that would indicate the population's size, which might explain the half shekel. Nonetheless, there might be another way to conduct a census without everyone contributing a half shekel!) It's instructive to note that the contributions of the silver half-shekel coins were applied to the making of the sockets or אדנים. The sockets had two openings in which the planks or קרשים were placed. These sockets were essentially functioning as the foundation of the Mishkan as it was literally upholding the Mishkan. There is a profound lesson on community building that can be learned from the lesson of the Half Shekel contributions. When it comes to any area of Jewish communal life, one should contribute according to their means. However, when laying down a foundation for the community, all must be equal participants. If only the more affluent people contribute, then those with more limited means will not be as invested. Everyone needs to have "skin in the game". The Torah teaches that giving and sharing our financial resources with a worthy cause is an opportunity for the donor as he has the ability to have the mitzvah of helping others. As the Talmud teaches, G-d could have easily provided for all the needy directly. He created this paradigm of donors and recipients for the donor to have the opportunity to give. This applies in all areas of Tzedaka but especially when creating a foundation for the community. Times may have changed but the lesson of the half-shekel is more pertinent than ever. Have a Peaceful Shabbos, Rabbi Yaakov Fisch

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