February 2016, Parshat Terumah & Community Fundraising

Dear friends,

This week’s Parsha is Terumah in which God, for a change, speaks to Moses, and commands him to ‘speak to the people to bring Me gifts; you shall accept gifts for Me from every person whose heart so moves him. And these are the gifts you shall accept from them, gold, silver, and copper; blue, purple, and crimson yarns, fine linen, goat’s hair; tanned ram skins, dolphin skins, acacia wood…’.

Without exaggeration, every word from this point on to the end of the Parsha is an elaboration of what gifts God wants, and exactly how He wants them made, down to the finest detailed measurement in cubits. For someone who gets migraines from Ikea manuals this Parsha has, therefore, traditionally been quite difficult for me to get inspired by. The part about dolphin skins to be used doesn’t exactly help the situation.

But today I had a little epiphany. In re-reading the first few verses I came to realise that this Parsha is an incredible record of the first major Jewish community fundraiser! That we are reading about it three and a half thousand years later suggests that it was highly successful which shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. After all, God Itself, was the architect and driver of this initiative.

What can we learn from this? First and foremost, even God needs sponsorship. Secondly, when seeking sponsorship, do not be shy. God is very comfortable articulating a wish list of the grandest order. I mean gold, silver and copper! God basically wants a building made entirely of Olympic medals. And finally, for the best results, be specific. God actually comes with an itemised list accompanied with very precise dimensions. There may even have been a miniature design as part of the marketing strategy, we simply do not know.

Amongst other things, this Parsha was the first one read when ARK Centre began, in its original incarnation, seven years ago. Like the Mishkan, ARK Centre, needs community support through volunteers who will help build it (thank you to the volunteers group that got together this week for a nurturing discussion), and sponsors to supply the raw materials. To borrow God’s strategy I should add that the kitchen needs a combi-oven and a commercial dishwasher, while the main rooms require multi-media capabilities especially for screenings of wildlife specials.

If I’ve already gone down this road and suspended my usual aversion to fundraising I will just conclude with the command in this week’s Parsha ‘They shall make for Me an Ark, and you should cover it with pure gold’.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Shneur