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Torah Commentary
Vayak'heil (March 14, 2015)

Missy Bell,
Program Director
of Youth Learning and Engagement

THIS WEEK’S TORAH PORTION (actually two portions, Vayak’heil and P’kudei) is devoted to the building of the Mishkan — the Tabernacle. In the beginning of the portion, Moses instructs the Israelites of the types of materials needed for the Tabernacle and that all “generous-hearted” people should bring these things for building it. Throughout the rest of the portion, the Israelites are bringing gifts for the Tabernacle, and then those with various skills build the Tabernacle out of these gifts.

The part of the Torah portion that strikes me the most is when Moses has to tell the people to stop bringing gifts for the Tabernacle: “So Moses commanded and they announced in the camp, saying: ‘Let no man or woman do any more work for the offering for the Holy.’ So the people stopped bringing.” (Exodus 36:6)

When do we run into this situation today? When do people give so much that we need to tell them to stop? I think many times, people are this generous with their time — giving so much to their jobs, their families, their friends and to other commitments that they don’t have enough time for themselves. There constantly are articles about how stressed out we all are and how busy everyone is, including this recent article in the Huffington Post. Sometimes others need to tell us we are doing too much, and sometimes we are able to tell ourselves. But when does this happen with people giving tzedakah, that we are so generous-hearted as those Israelites in the Torah, that we can’t stop giving?

Our Teen Benefit Committee is hard at work on their sixth annual AJWS Teen Benefit, raising money for American Jewish World Service at a fundraiser gala open to eighth through 12th graders on April 25. Over the last five years, they have raised $100,000, in part because of the generosity of our Temple Emanu-El community. This year, they hope to raise $25,000 for AJWS’ emergency response campaign to help stop the spread of Ebola in Western Africa. Just as the Israelites brought many kinds of donations for the Mishkan — metals, fabrics and oils — the Teen Benefit Committee needs many types of donations to make a successful event, including desserts, raffle prizes and monetary gifts. So many members of our community already have been generous-hearted towards the teens on the Teen Benefit Committee, donating cookies to serve at our event and such things as Jets tickets and gym classes for the raffle.

The members of the Teen Benefit Committee only can hope to end up in a situation like Moses — where they get so many donations they have to start turning them away. But for now, they still are counting on the generosity of their friends, families and congregants to have a successful event and raise their goal of $25,000 for AJWS. If you would like to learn more or to make a gift, then please visit www.ajwsteenbenefitnyc.com.

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