Shabbat Shalom with a Heart Healthy Dose of Torah –T’rumah

I remember the Charlie Brown Halloween special. I always felt bad for him. House after house, adults gave his friends handfuls of candy. As they compared their haul – after each house, he summed his total up, “I got a rock.” Amidst his despair, he finds Sally, who had spent the previous week with Snoopy in the pumpkin patch waiting for “The Great Pumpkin,” which never came. She was angry that she didn’t go trick or treating instead. As her anger grew, Charlie smiled and offered her a rock. None of the kids offered either Charlie or Sally any candy. In the end, though, what little Charlie had; he was willing to share.

Why would adults give a child a rock? Why would no one share their candy? Perhaps, it speaks to how people in power ignore the rights of certain people over and over. Perhaps it speaks to privilege. Charlie’s ghost costume had way too many holes to be real. They commented on the costume at each house by punishing him for not having a costume “good enough to be with the rest of the kids.” He was different. Too often, people don’t appreciate different. Charlie often daydreamed that he could be loved and popular only to wake in disappointment and say, “Good grief.”

“Someday we’ll find it, the ‘Rainbow Connection.’ The lovers, the dreamers, and me.” From the Muppets, we learn that loving and dreaming can be lonely endeavors. People with power and privilege have expectations that they are somehow owed the blessings that they enjoy. Think about the history of justice work; it always begins with someone considered “the other” in society who dreams about expanding our narrowness; our boundaries. From our place of comfort or discomfort, we look for ways to include and pursue others’ well-being irrespective of race, gender, economics, religion, or the many categories people use to distinguish us from each other. What should be adjectives that define what we add to the mix; many use these labels to create barriers that categorize and separate us.

So, we find ourselves in the Torah wilderness. Moses is still atop the mountain. God is still speaking. Ultimately, God has two requests. The first is that the people should build a sanctuary – a home – for God so that God may be present with us. God wants to have a “present and personal” relationship with all of us and wants it on our terms – whatever our hearts prompt (the second request). God asks us to give what our hearts determine the building this Tabernacle warrants.

Think about how we gift. Often our gifting ties to meeting someone else’s financial or popularity-based expectations. We give to be seen giving. We give without regard for the wants or needs of the receiver. We give to impress the receiver. How about giving in ways that grow the giver and the receiver?

Torah teaches us that gifting should never be a monolithic experience. Giving or receiving can only bear fruit when both the giver and receiver elevate in spirit from the exchange. For this reason, the text does not use the normative Hebrew word for a gift – “matanah.” Instead, it uses “terumah,” the Hebrew word for a special gift, often tied to the well-being of the Priests. If we are all made in the Divine image, then any exchange between us should elevate us.

The idea is that faith is a struggle but also a gift. The relationship with faith should warrant giving with a full heart. The more one invests (and not just dollars), the more one benefits from the relationship. Understanding that we all have different capacities, the issue is not the “what” one gives but the motivation for giving. Torah lists everything from gold to yarn; everything given from a prompted heart equally contributes to building God’s dwelling.

So it is in the streets in our world. Too often, we judge people by the “what they have” and not by the “who they are.” We condemn their costumes or dreams for which we don’t see the value. A person’s value never ties to the sum of his/her tangible assets or meeting our “comfort zone” expectations. Rather, it is the spirit with which one lives amongst his/her community peers (whatever their walk of life) – one who recognizes the gifts that people bring simply by being and engaging. If all we have to share is a rock, we share it lovingly. We see the best in each other when we appreciate our diversity. We experience the best of God when we celebrate that diversity as all emanating from and resting in the wings of the very same God. Terumah is the best that we can give and the best that we can hope to receive – not the best stuff – the best. In this realm, we can heal the world.

Shabbat Shalom.