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    How to be a donor – T’rumah

    800px-Coins_1-150x150When the historian Cecil Roth called the post-war period the Philanthropic Age he had in mind the massive needs of Israel and the Jewish world in constructing a new age.

    Roth was speaking in the 1960s and since then the challenges have not grown any less. Appeals for funds are still a crucial dimension of modern Jewish living.

    But fundraising styles have become different. In the early years, the fundraisers always found an emergency that needed a generous response. The approach then became more rational, explaining that new situations called for new levels of support.

    Interestingly, the commentaries on this week’s reading – the title of which means offering or donation – map out an ethic of giving.

    Rav Soloveitchik points out that T’rumah follows Mishpatim, which focusses on civil and criminal law. The lesson is that giving should always be above board. A person should not give for the sake of quietening their conscience but because their heart and mind tell them this is what to do.

    Sforno reminds us that every gift had to be properly recorded and correctly applied – no hanky-panky, no siphoning off for other purposes, no salting away of funds for some future project.

    Rabbi Chayyim Ibn Attar notes that the Torah waits till the end of the list before mentioning the really costly donations, the precious stones. This teaches us that the modest donor should not be deterred by the fear that their small gift would pale in comparison with the major donors.

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