From this point on, the remaining chapters of Exodus deal exclusively with the construction and dedication of the Tent of Meeting, also called the Tabernacle.
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The details that are specified throughout these chapters are extensive and very exacting. The number of cubits for each area of the tabernacle, from the section we call the Holy of Holies (where the Ark of the Covenant was placed) to the outer courts and the surrounding area, is very exact, as are the types of metal and weight of the materials for the various articles that are to be used in the service of the Lord.
The message here for us is…well, I’m not sure. There are a number of places in the Torah, as well as within the writings of some of the Prophets, where exacting detail of a structure are found, and sometimes, I confess, I wonder why so much attention is paid to such minutia. I am sure there is a purpose for it, and now that I think about it, maybe I have a reasonable explanation:
God gave Moses such exacting detail in order to test the dedication and obedience of the people.
The reason I think this is the explanation is that when we get to the end of the book, in Exodus 39:43 we are told that they did it all, just as they were told to. This leads me to believe that listing every single exacting detail of every single item associated with the Tabernacle was how God tested the people. He wanted to see if they would obey, would be willing to do the hard work without complaint, and how willing they were to donate, or maybe I should say give away, the goods and valuables they had attained from the Egyptians.
I am sure that living their entire lives as slaves, after they had looted Egypt and received jewels, fine linens, expensive skins, etc. they might not have wanted to give them up. But the requirements for the tabernacle were gold, silver, fine linen, precious jewels, colored threads, and expensive woods, just to name a few. Having these wonderful articles for the first time, maybe, ever, and then being asked to give them away for the Tabernacle’s use, is quite a request and called for some real dedication.
If we were asked to give up something valuable that we had just attained in order to further God’s work, how willing would we be to do that? It is easy to say, “Sure, I’d give something to God if I had a lot to give.” but that doesn’t count. Remember how in Mark 12:41-43 Yeshua told how the rich gave their tithes, which they could easily afford, but the poor widow gave all she had? And that because of her dedication, she would be remembered?
Many years ago, I received an inheritance that at the time, to me, was significant, and I am somewhat proud to say I tithed it correctly. I also have to confess that there was somewhat of a trust issue, meaning I wanted to make sure the monies I gave to my synagogue were being used correctly for the furthering of God’s work. Fortunately, I was on the Council at the time so was able to make sure those funds were used in God’s name, but I can understand how someone without that ability to verify where the money goes to might think twice about making a large donation to any house of worship, or charity.
I think when giving to a charity, no matter how wonderful their sales pitch is, one should first find out how the monies are utilized.
For instance, as a veteran, I am open to giving to Veteran charities, such as one I often see advertised on TV (to be fair I won’t give the name), but when I checked them out this is what I discovered: In 2016 only 54% of all monies went to the program, the rest to administrative and marketing expenses. In 2018, that went up to 64%, and here’s a surprise: the CEO makes $280,000 per year.
And when I checked that out, according to the charity watchdogs, that CEO’s salary is NOT unusual!
Now, if we look at another charity, one we all know but shall remain un-named (I will say it is really popular around Halloween), they spend 88.9% of the money received on their charity programs, the rest going to administrative and marketing expenses.
In general, a charity is expected to spend 15% or less on administrative and marketing expenses. So, when you give to a charitable organization, make sure that what you are giving is going where you expect it to go.
The Israelites knew where all they gave went because they got to see it, and in fact, worked with it.
Charity is something that we are commanded to partake in since the Torah often tells us to care for the orphan and the widow, and that is NOT tithing- that is charitable giving. We are also told that God loves a cheerful giver, yet be wise and use discernment when you give.
The Israelites gave so willingly that Moses had to tell them to stop contributing (Exodus 36:5), and that is how I believe, God wants us to be- cheerfully willing to share the blessings he has given to us with others.
And here’s the really good news: God never runs out of blessings so there is no way you can ever give away more than what God can resupply to you.
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That’s it for this week, so l’hitraot and Shabbat Shalom!