Lessons Learned Along the Way
Why Should We Give Money To Our Temple?
Folks have been talking about this topic forever. Some say: I’ll give money if they’ll honor me. Others say: I’ll give money in honor of some honor I may receive at the service. Or if they’ll put up a plaque with my name on it. These reasons may have their merit, but let’s see if we can get some wisdom from the Torah.
The closest parallel we have is probably the sacrificial offerings which were brought to the ancient Temple. There were different categories of sacrifices. There was the “Korban chattat,” the sin offering, the sacrifice you brought if you had committed a sin and felt you needed forgiveness. Closely resembling that was the “Korban asham,” the guilt offering, when you felt guilty about something you had done.
But my favorite sacrifice was always the “Korban shelamim,” the free-will offering. You brought an animal to be sacrificed simply because you were grateful to God who kept you alive, and you wanted to share that gratitude with others. No favors handed out, no names mentioned, no honors given. You brought it just because you wanted to support the People and its needs. You felt “fulfilled,” which is what “shelamim” means, and you gave a gift. It’s the same word as “shalom.”
Today, people give money-or don’t give money- for interesting reasons. Nobody gives money today because they feel like they need absolution after a sin they committed. We have a hard time with that. Of course if we compared the cost of a free-will donation to several sessions with a therapist...
Sociologically speaking, many members think of their House of Worship as a supermarket, where you pay for Jewish life like you’re eating off an ala carte menu. My kid needs a Jewish education, so I sign him up for Hebrew School. After his Bar Mitzvah, we don’t need to be affiliated with Jewish life anymore, so we give up our membership.
But I wonder...why don’t we ever give our offerings out of a spirit of gratefulness to God who has kept us alive? Don’t we ever just feel good about our lives? Like everything is going the way we want it to? What would be so terrible about sitting down and sharing our good feelings with the rest of our Jewish community? You know that the highest level of giving is anonymous giving. I love seeing donations given by “Anonymous. “That means that life is good for somebody, and he or she feels like sharing. And his/her identity is nobody else’s business, it’s between you and God.
So let’s stop talking about excuses why we are “not” going to support our Congregation by not giving donations, and let’s start talking about why we “should be” giving donations.
I think God would like that.
Rabbi Mel Glazer, D. Min.