Last week’s Sedra established the civil justice system. Parashat Mishpatim is comprised of an array of laws dealing with issues of interpersonal relationships and transactions designed to maintain order in society and guide us though moral decisions, as we try to be good and honest people.
This week our focus turns towards a much more spiritual aspect of our religious practice, that helps us move towards developing a closer relationship with God. He commands the Jewish People to build a temple where Hashem’s presence would rest; a sanctuary to serve as a centre of our spiritual worship. Our Temple would be the focal point of our nation, and help unify us in our beliefs and practices. Jewish People would travel from the corners of the world to be inspired and stand together in a testimony of faith. We know, that even today, when we are missing this vital element of our heritage, the only remnant of the Temple, the Kotel still has a magical effect on us.
Moshe tells the Jewish People that in order to build this Temple they would have to contribute some of their worth and for the first time in history we have the now very familiar fundraising appeal. In the name of God, Moshe commands them to take some of their own valuables and give it to a central cause in order to collect enough to create the magnificent structure. But interestingly, the verse says “Speak to the Children of Israel and let them take for me a portion…” Surely it would have made more sense to tell them to ‘give me a portion’?
From this we learn an important lesson about the nature of giving. Just as investing in the building of the Temple allowed the Jewish People to reap its benefits for generations, so too, we are rewarded when we give from our hearts by the emotions of gratification and the growth and development of our character. The Sedra describes this in the context of our relationship with God but this can be applied in all our relationships and all our endeavours.
We know that with anything we try to achieve it takes effort and practice. Whether that be working for exams or climbing Mount Everest, everything we do that has real value requires effort from our part. This might be a simple lesson or obvious to some, but the Torah specifically highlights this in context of how we build our relationship with God. It takes effort and time but when we give to it, we can see that we get so much from it.
God wants us to come close to Him, to seek Him out and to bring Him into our life that is our challenge. But we can see that whatever we put into this relationship will be returned to us many times over. Giving feels more like taking, for what ultimately we get out of it – an eternal bond with our creator – is greater than life itself.