By Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis
At the commencement of Parashat Terumah, a mitzvah is given to the Jewish people – V’yikchu Li Terumah, ‘You must give a contribution to the Sanctuary’.
The terminology here is intriguing. The Torah surely should have said, V’yitnu Li Terumah, ‘They must give’. Instead it says, ‘V’yikchu’ which means that ‘they should take for themselves a contribution for me’.
What is clear from this passage is, that Hashem wants us to know that when you give, you receive in turn. Indeed, the longest palindrome in the Torah is ‘Venatnu’ – vav, nun, taf, nun, vav – spelling the same backwards and forwards, showing that when you give, you receive in turn. And the word ‘Terumah’ comes from the root ‘Ram’, which means ‘elevated’, to show us that when we give, we ourselves become uplifted – we elevate our lives.
A visitor once came to the home of Reb Amschel Rothschild in Frankfurt. He walked into the study of the philanthropist, and with great chutzpah, he posed the question, “what are you worth? Different people give different sums to the value of your fortune, so could you tell me, what have you got?”
Rothschild didn’t take exception to this chutzpah. He went over to his desk, he opened his drawer and from there he took a ledger with the word ‘Tzedaka’ on it and he started to tot up some figures. The visitor said, “I don’t think you heard me correctly, I didn’t ask you what have you given, I asked you what have you got?”
Rothschild said, “I understood exactly what you were asking. You see,” he said, “like every mortal being, I won’t be able to live forever and in fact the only thing that I will be able to take with me into the world to come, will be the merit of what I have given away. Therefore, in truth, what I ‘have’, is not those things which I will leave behind, but rather all of the Tzedaka that I have given. That is what will accompany me for all time.”
From Parashat Terumah we learn that we receive so much when we give to others and what we truly have in this world, is that which we give away.
Originally appears on Chief Rabbi Mirvis’ website