One could say that taxes started this country. In the United States of America taxes are an ever-present entity. Income tax, social security tax, sales tax, gas tax, etc.
One could say that taxes started this country. In the United States of America taxes are an ever-present entity. Income tax, social security tax, sales tax, gas tax, etc. In return we get the strongest armed forces in the world, police and fire protection, schools, hospitals, infrastructure, etc. Still we constantly complain about our taxes.
. . .April 15th, 1997, Washington, D.C. - The Internal Revenue Service headquarters is surrounded by a mob. National, Dulles, and Baltimore-Washington International airports are packed with arrivals headed for Washington. Trains and buses into the capitol are sold out. Every freeway in the Baltimore-Washington metropolitan area is bumper to bumper. Why? Everyone wants to come to donate their money to the government, of course! People want to give their money to pay off the national debt, balance the budget, fund Medicare and Social Security, repair roads, and fight crime and drugs. . .
Yes, you might say someone here either has a very vivid imagination or has gone crazy. For good reasons this scenario will never play itself out, not in this country or any other. Instead around the world people clamor for tax cuts and smaller government. Time and money are spent trying to figure out ways to get tax credits, refunds, and exemptions. Why should our money go to waste in funding corrupt government? We work hard for our money and, understandably, want to have control over as much of it as possible. Still, in this week's Torah portion of Terumah, we see this amazing scene take place.
The newly formed Nation of Israel was rich. In fulfillment of the promise to Abraham, Hashem allowed the Jewish people to collect tremendous treasures from the Egyptians when they were freed from slavery. Now, Hashem tells them to build a Mishkan (Tabernacle) for Him.
How exactly is this Mishkan going to be funded? A tax hike! Hashem tells Moses, "Speak to the Children of Israel and let them take for Me a portion, from every man whose heart motivates him you shall take My portion. This is the portion you should take from them: gold, silver, and copper; and turquoise, purple, and scarlet wool; linen and goat hair; red-dyed ram skins, tachash skins, acacia wood; oil for illumination, spices for anointment oil and the aromatic incense; shoham stones and stones for the settings, for the ephod and the breastplate" (Exodus 25:2-7). Quite a bill!
The Sforno, a classic 16th century Italian commentator, tells us that the Jewish people jumped ahead of Moses. Hashem told Moses to have collectors gather the people's donations, but when Moses came and told the people about the building of the Mishkan, they could not wait for collectors to be appointed. Immediately they rushed to Moses bringing an overflow of donations for the Mishkan. The children of Israel wanted to give their money. Before Moses could react he was inundated with tremendous amounts of everything needed to build the Mishkan. Why were the Jewish people so eager to give away their wealth?
In the desert, the Children of Israel became the Nation of Israel. They saw countless miracles performed by Hashem. Together they accepted the Torah. They saw the tax for the Mishkan as their opportunity to show their gratitude and love for Him. They understood that this was their chance of a lifetime to build a Mishkan for Hashem to dwell amongst them.
In our society, taxes are considered a burden. People want to have their money to do what they want. Governments are corrupt, often using tax dollars for their own agendas. That is why there will never be a grand rush on Washington, D.C. to give money to the government. On the flip side, the Torah is the everlasting truth. That is why there was a rush to Moses to fund the Mishkan.
Today we do not have the Mishkan or Temple in Jerusalem to donate to. Still we have Hashem's Torah to guide us, and our own "Mishkan" to fund. Day schools, yeshivot, synagogues, and organizations are our "Mishkan" to build and support. We too have the opportunity to bring Hashem into our world by ensuring the continuity and growth of the Jewish people. We must realize, as the Jews did in the desert, that a life guided by the Torah is the only way to live. Our Mishkan is for our honor, our way to bring Hashem amongst us. This chance of a lifetime must be accepted with open arms.
Nachliel Friedman, a senior at the Ner Israel High School in Baltimore, spends nearly all of his vacation time with his aunt and uncle in Atlanta
You are invited to read more Parshat Terumah articles.
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