Va-Yakhel and Shekalim
For the week of March 1, 2003 / 27 Adar 5763
Torah: Shemot / Exodus 35:1 - 38:20; 30:11-16
Haftarah: 1 Melachim / 1 Kings 7:40-50
Replaced by 2 Melachim / 2 Kings 12:1-17


All the Israelite men and women who were willing brought to the LORD freewill offerings for all the work the LORD through Moses had commanded them to do (Shemot / Exodus 35:29).

It seems that a lot of people are wary of religion because of a perception that its leaders just want our money. While there is no doubt that not all religious leaders and religious organizations have handled the issue of giving properly, the fact is it is impossible to maintain a viable organization of any kind or size without money or the things money buys. What is needed is a godly perspective of money and giving.

The Torah demonstrates for us a healthy balance in these matters. In the establishment of Israel's religion there were two kinds of giving: mandatory and voluntary. There were occasions where sacrifices of animals, food, or money were necessary, and other times when giving was completely voluntary.

Such was the case in the gathering of the articles for the building of the Mishkan (English: Tabernacle). The Mishkan was the central venue for Israel's worship. It required much in the way of expensive materials. Yet the people were under no obligation to provide for its construction. They were only to give as they were willing. And give they did. In fact eventually the people were told to stop giving, since there was more than enough (Shemot/ Exodus 36:6,7).

How do we know when it is time for each kind of giving?

Now I haven't done a careful study of all the kinds of giving in the Torah, but it seems that the people were obliged to give in situations involving the provision of leaders or of the needy. Providing for the needs of those who serve us and for the needy is something we must do. It can't be left to our whims and wishes.

But if the Mishkan was so important to the community of Israel, why wouldn't God then oblige the people to provide for its construction? Perhaps it is because the worship of God needs to be something we willingly do. The fact that there are certain obligations we need to fulfill should not distract from this basic truth.

The building of the Mishkan was something the people wanted to do. It was an expression of their hearts. On one hand it was truly their own, because it was made from their personal possessions and from the willingness of their own hearts. On the other hand it truly belonged to God because they gave to its construction without any outside pressure.

God cannot and should not be worshipped out of a sense of obligation or compulsion. If we don't worship him willingly, then we are likely not worshipping him at all.

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