Gifts are often given for one of many reasons: from feeling obligated to give to being motivated to give by love. Terumah, meaning “gifts” is the name of this week’s Torah portion. God instructs Moses to ask that the Israelites bring gifts to build the Mishkan, the portable sanctuary that the Israelites build while wandering in the wilderness. God’s instructions are qualified with the statement that only those whose hearts so move them, should bring these gifts. The Israelites are so moved they bring more than what is needed.
There is no mention in the text of what it is that moves the Israelites to give. Is it love of God, desire to be a part of the end result, fear of the consequences of not giving… We are left believing that the Israelites are giving for the pure joy of giving without an ulterior motive. Torah is asking us to ask ourselves, ‘how often are our actions driven by motives we would be uncomfortable sharing with others.’ Torah teaches us that whenever we are convinced of our own altruism, that when we say to ourselves that our deeds are for someone else’s benefit, we should look at the example of the Israelites’ gifts in Terumah, just to check to see how we truly measure up.