This week, we were reminded of acts of outstanding generosity. Lord Jacob Rothschild passed away. His philanthropy was legendary. He supported many causes in this country and abroad. In particular, his foundation endowed the building of Israel’s Knesset, its Supreme Court and its National Library, the latter he did not merit to see. May his memory be a source of blessing for us all. 

Ulehavdil bein chayim lachayim, Dr Ruth Gottesman in New York, announced that she would be donating one billion dollars to the Albert Einstein School of Medicine of Yeshiva University. Her endowment means that going forward, tuition at the University will now be free. It is the largest gift of its kind ever given in the USA. 

Generosity underpins our current Torah readings as people were asked to donate to the building of the Tabernacle. There were no Rothschilds or Gottesmans at the time of the Tabernacle, but people gave what they had and what they could afford. 

It would appear that as important as what they gave was the manner in which they gave it.  

Donations were received by Betzelel who was the chief architect. Our parasha describes him as a person of exceptional qualities: 

“I have filled him with a divine spirit, with wisdom and understanding, and knowledge in every craft” (Shemot 31:3). The verse then goes on to say that Betzalel was also endowed with the ability lachshov machashavot, which literally means “to think thoughts.”  

Rabbi Abraham Lichshtein (18th– 19th century) offers us a remarkable insight, based on the Talmud and Midrash. Bezalel was endowed with the ability to “think thoughts” – not merely his own thoughts, but the thoughts of the donors! He could sense whether an individual was giving to the Tabernacle with the holiest of motives, from the depths of her or his heart. Or, perhaps, the donor gave simply to discharge an obligation rather than to fully embrace the project. Based on the motive of the giver, Betzalel would allocate the resources for different purposes. If a person gave with an appreciation of the privilege of being part of this project, then the gift was used for the holiest components such as the ark. Donations of lesser sanctity were allocated to components of lesser sanctity, such as the outer beams. 

In every generation, there are only a few who can give like a Rothschild or a Gottesman. But we can all aspire to the gold standard that Betzalel would have accepted for the holiest components. Whatever their quantum, may our charitable contributions be with the best of motives, bringing blessing into our lives and the lives of others.