For many years I raised money for a variety of nonprofit organizations. As a volunteer leader, I felt compelled to make a leadership-size gift. However, early on in my business career, I did not have the money to pay for them. These debts weighed on me for years. Too bad I had not internalized the parsha for this Sabbath, Terumah:
“. . . the length of one panel twenty-eight amos, and width four amos for the one panel, one measure for all the panels.” (Shemos/Exodus 26:2).
This week’s parsha details the plans for the Mishkan or portable Sanctuary in which G-d rested His Presence during the Israelites’ wanderings in the wilderness. Such ordinary materials as copper, linen, and goatskins became a holy abode.
Perhaps you noticed the great detail given about the design of the Mishkan and its utensils. Material specifications are exacting and measurements are quite precise. If even one board or socket was too long or too short the whole structure would be out of whack, perhaps even collapse.
The Hebrew word for a measurement is midah. Interestingly, the same word, midah, also refers to human character trait. Could this be the source of the phrase, “the measure of a person’s character”? In the building of the Mishkan there is an important lesson for each of us.
A Character Trait Out of Balance Is Bad
It is well known that being charitable is an important midah to have. You shouldn't be stingy when giving money to the poor. Equally bad, perhaps worse, is the person who gives so much money he impoverishes himself or goes into debt as a result. Proper development of the midah of being charitable keeps giving in balance with your means. Otherwise, like the Mishkan the whole structure of a human being may collapse.
I struggled for many years to pay my pledges. How much more productive would I have been by being more measured in my largesse? Free from the worry and embarrassment of owing money I could have focused my mind more fully on business. I need not have felt uncomfortable around friends and business associates, most of whom knew nothing about my plight, but who had fulfilled their own pledges.
Make yourself a Mishkan, exacting in your middos, deriving holiness from humble materials, a shelter for all from the harsh rays of life.
Do you think someone can overdo a good trait?
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Every year beginning on Simchas Torah, the cycle of reading the Torah, the first five books of the Bible, ends and begins again. Each Sabbath a portion known as a sedra or parsha is read. It is named after the first significant word or two with which this weekly reading begins.
Do you have a question about the Old Testament? Ask it here and I will answer it in a future Parsha Nugget!