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    T’rumah & the elevator

    elevator lift buttonThe British word for it is a lift: the American word is an elevator, and in Hebrew it is a ma’alit. You have to choose the right word or you might not be immediately understood.

    Interestingly, not only do all these words both have the meaning of raising up, but there is another Hebrew word – T’rumah, the title of this week’s portion – which is not used for a lift/elevator but conveys the same idea.

    Not that the Torah portion is concerned with how you get up and down a tall building, but when it speaks of a t’rumah it means a gift or offering, implying that when you nominate a gift of any kind for the purposes of religion and the community, the gift takes on a new nature. It is no longer mere money or just a physical item: it has been elevated and now serves a higher purpose.

    It transforms the giver too: when you make an offering in the name of God you yourself are elevated. Some donors realise this so well that they almost treat their gift like a bribe (God forbid) which assures them of immortality – or least of earthly notability. I know people who would only give if their donation earned a physical reward like naming rights for a building or at least a plaque on the wall. It is probably better to name a building or erect a plaque than for the community to be left without financial support, but the Jewish ideal is to do the good deed for its own sake even if no reward eventuates.

    There was a certain quiet member of my congregation to whom I once went for a donation of several thousand dollars to create a particular facility for the synagogue. He said to me, “I’m happy to give, but on condition that there are no votes of thanks and that it’s completely anonymous!”

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