Rebecca Masinter

Parshas Terumah - Giving and Receiving for Everyone

      Parshas Terumah introduces us to the Mishkan, the holiest place on Earth.  Several questions jump out at us. Firstly, Hashem doesn’t need a Mishkan and doesn’t gain anything from the mishkan, it's intended for our benefit. What is that benefit? Secondly, Hashem could have given the Jews a completed Mishkan, much as He gave us the entire Har Sinai experience without our input.  He didn’t have to command us to contribute towards the Mishkan and build it ourselves.  Why did we have to do this? Finally, Chazal note that instead of the passuk saying, “they should give the contributions”, it says “V’yikchu li” and they should take for me.  Somehow this giving is more of a taking. How? 

     These questions are answered by noting that the passuk delineates thirteen items for the Jews to donate. The mefarshim draw parallels to all of the thirteen shevatim who contributed.  This Mishkan was a project for everyone, no exceptions.  This isn't because Hashem required everyone's help and it isn't because the Mishkan required everyone. The truth is that each person needed to build the Mishkan. The Jewish people were newly redeemed from generations of slavery and poverty. They needed to see themselves as people with great resources and skills.  By having all the Jews contribute to the Mishkan, Hashem was demonstrating to them their own abilities, wealth, and skills.  Through giving to such a magnificent project, each person could recognize their worthiness and value. This is why Hashem didn't provide us with a ready-made Mishkan and this is why every person from every tribe received even more than they donated. 

    In our homes, we have unique people with different strengths, weaknesses, and contributions to make.  Just as the mishkan needed to come from all thirteen shevatim, from men and women, leaders and laymen, our homes are also built when everyone has a role and contributes in their own way.  Not because our homes and families need everyone's help, (though that may also be true). Rather because every person needs to feel they have value and are contributing to their family.

    There are two ways we can ask for help in our homes.  One is focused on our need,  “I need help.  I’m overwhelmed.  Can you do x, y, or z?”  That is not bad or wrong and is certainly sometimes the reality.  But think for a moment of the same help being contributed but with a whole different attitude.  What if it's not about me, it’s about my kids?  It’s important for our children to know they have worth, resources, skills, and talents that contribute to our families.  What if I ask my child for help not because I desperately need help, but because my child needs to give?  When we need help in the moment we tend to ask the one who is most capable or easily available, but in truth, it's a good idea for us to think proactively about what each child can contribute and how we can make that happen in the best times in the best way.  A simple example: for many years I have kept a lightweight battery operated vacuum cleaner in the kitchen.  This vacuum can easily be operated by a three-year old and it is a real help to have my kitchen floor cleaned!  I also store dishes in bottom cupboards to allow younger children to unload dishwashers and set the table.  My older kids also need me to think through how I can facilitate their contributing.  The older they get the less frequently they’re home!  But even my older children who are rarely home know that they contribute to our family; we need them and count on them.  Finally, it may not be easy or obvious to figure out how a particularly challenging kid can be a meaningful contributor to the family.  This child needs it even more than the others!  We have to see and believe in his strengths and give him the responsibility to contribute positively to our family, so that he can begin to believe in himself and his abilities too.  No one is exempt.  Everyone needs to be a giver, and the lessons from the Mishkan are profound. Everyone has what to contribute and through giving, we each receive far more than we provide.