Shabbat Shalom: What We Contribute, Not What We Receive

Feb 23, 2023 | Article

Shabbat Shalom: What We Contribute, Not What We Receive

Feb 23, 2023

By: Itai Divinsky
Senior Community Israel Emissary (Shaliach)

Last week’s Parsha ended on a high note: Moshe goes up the mountain where he will meet God and at the foot of the mountain all the Israelites see is what seems to look like a “consuming fire on the top of the mountain.” WOW! Reading these lines leaves me at the edge of my seat. What will follow is for sure to be, to paraphrase Hillel, “the entire Torah on one foot”. 

After this incredible build up you might, like me, be surprised that the first instructions God gives Moshe in this unique moment are to collect gifts from the people. Even adding to the surprise is the purpose of this gift collecting campaign. They are not meant to feed the hungry or clothe the naked. Not even to build and secure the sovereign Jewish state in the land of Israel. Instead, God wants the Israelites to build God a sanctuary. And to top it all off we receive clear instruction, blueprints, for how God wants this sanctuary to be built, down to the colors. 

This leaves me wondering, is this the big message? What are we to make of this? How does this relate to the groundbreaking moral messages of the great Jewish prophets? What is the enduring message for the Jewish people of today? 

When we think about a gift-collecting campaign (or simply donations) we usually focus, rightfully so, on the recipients of those gifts, not the givers. Perhaps the message we are looking for lies there, in flipping the picture on its head and thinking about the givers. Contributing to a communal effort not only empowers and helps free the Israelites from generations of slavery, it also builds community, it forges a nation, a people, out of a group of individuals. The Torah provides us with many lessons on “community building” and this might be one of the most fundamental. What makes us part of a community is not what we receive from it, it’s what we contribute that really connects us, that makes us feel part of something larger than ourselves. 

The Torah somehow always connects to our lives today. Writing these words after JEWISHcolorado’ s Signature Event with Live Schreiber seems very fitting. Gathering at Ball Arena on Wednesday with so many members of the Jewish community, all coming together to support the work of JEWISHcolorado for and on behalf of the community, made me feel I was part of something larger than myself. Maybe, that is what God was aiming for, just give the Jewish people a big challenge and let them come together to meet it as a community. 

Shabbat Shalom, Colorado.

Please email Itai Divinsky at with questions or comments.