The Big Givers
"When Jews are solicited they give. When they were solicited to donate their jewelry for making the golden calf they did so. When they were solicited to donate for building the Mishkan sanctuary they did so."
This Midrashic comment upon the Jewish character, which finds expression in this weeks Torah reading, reveals one of the truly unique characteristics of the Jewish People. Jews are givers like no other people in the world. Just take a look at how much is contributed every year by Jews of every economic class to every sort of cause.
It is this sort of indiscriminate giving, however, which is at the root of the problem of Jewish education today. Too many philanthropists fail to distinguish between the golden calf and the sanctuary, pouring millions into secular cultural projects, while Jewish educational institutions struggle to stay afloat. How many American parents have been discouraged from providing their children with a Jewish Day School education because they simply could not afford the tuition payments, and were forced to send them instead to the public school building grounds of assimilation and intermarriage? How many victims of this system who longed to return to their people and their tradition upon reaching maturity were denied the opportunity because they, and the institutions developed to serve them, lacked the necessary funds?
The time has come for intelligent, generous Jews to use their heads as well as their hearts when it comes to giving. The merit of charity is indeed a great one. The prophet declares that the returnees to Zion will be redeemed because of it. But there must be a priority in giving. Giving for the Sanctuary rather than some modern golden calf is what will redeem Israel forever.