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Be First!

Friday, 1 March, 2019 - 2:11 pm

Have you ever heard of a synagogue launching a building campaign and then telling it’s membership to stop donating because they have collected too much money? Well in this week’s portion that is exactly what happens.

In order to build the Mishkan – a ‘home’ for G‑d in the desert – Moshe launches the ‘building campaign’. Ultimately, the Jewish People donate so much gold, silver, copper, fabric, etc. that Moshe is forced to make an announcement to stop contributing. (I guess they didn’t have a Goodwill Donation Center in the desert to dump the extras!)

Strangely, the leaders of each of the 12 tribes of Israel didn’t make a very generous contribution. They merely brought a few precious stone, some oil, and spices.

Why? How could these 12 great leaders be so miserly in their contribution to such a holy cause?

Our Sages offer an interesting answer:

The leaders were not trying to be cheap at all. They wanted to wait until the Jewish People donated all they could and, in their largesse, would take responsibility for whatever was missing. So they waited until the end. Ultimately and sadly, they underestimated the philanthropic generosity of the people and they were left with but a few items to contribute.

In our daily lives, we are often called upon to get involved in important projects. Whether it’s sponsoring an important community activity, helping to pay for Torah activities, a collection to help a poor or sick family, or it might have nothing to do with money: To make the minyan for someone who has to say kaddish, to prepare food for a family that has just had a baby or, G‑d forbid, an illness. To help organize a program, plan a party for kids and an untold numbers of other opportunities to make a difference in the community.

How many times do we hear, in one form or other: "Let me know who else is involved and I'll see if I can help". Or: "when others step forward, then I’ll jump on the bandwagon." Often times the hesitation is an unwillingness to commit to a project that is not yet well supported.

Many people like to see a project be successful before they commit time and resources. And then there are those who truly want to be able to fill in whatever is lacking at the end.

Whatever the reason, this week’s portion teaches us that there is great value in being the first. Though we might feel more useful at the end, if an opportunity to do a mitzvah arises, step up, get involved, and let others follow your example and do the same.

Shabbat Shalom,

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