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Speaking Torah: Generosity of heart

Note: This message was originally distributed on March. 22, 2017 to the Hebrew College  community, alumni and friends.

Rabbi Sharon Cohen AnisfeldDear friends,

Generosity of heart. Nedivut halev. This is the starting place for the building of the mishkan. This is how we begin to make room for the divine presence in our midst.

In this week’s Torah portion, Vayakhel-Pekudei, Moses instructs all of the generous hearted among the people to bring offerings to the Lord – gifts of silver, copper, and gold, blue, purple, and crimson wool, animal skins, oil, spices, wood, and precious stones. The response from the people is an extraordinary outpouring of collective creativity – each individual offering his or her distinctive contribution and craft to the larger project of the mishkan.

At some point, however, it becomes too much. The people have responded with such overwhelming generosity that eventually they must be told to stop. 

There is an insight here about the creative process that is vital to all of our work in the world. We each have unique gifts to offer which we long to bring forth with generous and open hearts. But, we also need to be able to stop and accept that we have done enough. Perhaps this is why our portion begins by reiterating the commandment to keep Shabbat. “Six days shall you do your labor, but on the seventh day . . . you shall have a complete rest for the Lord.” Bring your gifts with an open heart, but know when it is time to stop. 

Rabbi Adina Allen, Rab'14
Rabbi Adina Allen, Rab’14

The Hasidic master, the Kedushat Levi, links this idea not only to Shabbat and the way we live our lives, but to the way we face our deaths. Immediately after the people are told to stop bringing their gifts, we read: “V’hamlacha hayta dayam, v’hoter. Their work was sufficient. And there was extra left over.” Commenting on this verse, the Kedushat Levi says, “They understood their gifts were sufficient, and they left room for the gifts of generations yet to come.”

Every week, when we enter Shabbat, we practice saying, “I’ve brought enough, I’ve given enough, I’ve done enough” – so that when we reach the end of our lives, God-willing, we will be able to say, “My gifts were sufficient. Now I will trust in the gifts of generations yet to come.”

Micah Shapiro
Micah Shapiro

This week, I’m delighted to share with you Torah from two current and emerging Hebrew College students and rabbis, people who give me faith in the generations to come: a wonderful piece from The Forward’s Sh’ma Now written by Rabbinical School of Hebrew College alumna and Jewish Studio Project Co-Founder Rabbi Adina Allen and a video about Hebrew College Rabbinical School student and musician Micah Shapiro. 

Please be in touch if you or anyone you know would like to talk further about the Rabbinical School of Hebrew College, or better yet, find time for a visit!

B’rachot,

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Rabbi Sharon Cohen Anisfeld
Dean, Rabbinical School of Hebrew College
sanisfeld@hebrewcollege.edu | 617.559.86

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