Sacred Giving

The Israelites responded favorably to the call for donations because they knew they were creating a place for God to dwell among them.

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Once upon a time, when Jews could not avail themselves of other communal agencies, we had to create Jewish ones. Now that we can use the commonly available network of support, there is little reason to maintain Jewish alternatives unless they are really Jewish – places, that is, where the care differs because it comes with God’s presence, not just the social worker’s.

The Israelites responded favorably to the call for donations because they knew they were creating a place for God to dwell among them. To the extent that people think the projects that we ask them to support are suffused with the sacred, they will give also. If not, our once-popular causes may sound redundant to what society offers elsewhere. Every Jewish organization needs to be a tabernacle in its own right. Build a house of God, and they will come – bringing whatever it takes to keep God active among us.

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Rabbi Lawrence A. Hoffman

Rabbi Lawrence A. Hoffman, Ph.D., is Professor of Liturgy at the New York campus of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. He is the author of The Art of Public Prayer: Not for Clergy Alone, Israel: A Spiritual Travel Guide, and The Way Home: Discovering the Deep Spiritual Wisdom of the Jewish Tradition.