"Everyone whose heart is willing [nediv], let them bring it, an offering to the Eternal” Exodus 35:5

By Rabbi Rebecca Qassim Birk, March 7, 2013

Nediv means generous, inclined, willing, even noble in behaviour. As in parashat Terumah, Moses talks here of gifts and instructs that the sanctuary will be constructed from donations. Not obligatory offerings but those given with a willing heart and spirit.

Nachmanides, always interested in the more psychological reading of the text, says the willing heart implies pure generosity. The willing spirit, nadva rucho, represents the awakening of a capacity to work, which the Israelites had never learned or practised before. In other words, being inspired and motivated to say “I can do it”.

Jewish communities are not new to the complicated joys of fundraising and volunteering. We may no longer ask for donations of dolphin skin and red yarn but we have our own versions of Mishkan for which we ask contributions. Many of the corridors of our institutions have plaques thanking generous benefactors. Most charities employ professional fundraisers. Rabbis are briefed in the art of asking for funds, using clever turns of phrase implying the need for sustenance, even in the spiritual world — ein kemach ein Torah (“without food, there is no Torah”). All know that successful fundraising is based on one principle, the absolute gift of giving. We raise the most when we offer a donor the gift and opportunity to give.

Indeed, the gift of giving offered to the Israelite community in these verses was so successful that Moses had to call a halt to it: “Bring no more gifts for the sanctuary.” They need no more. It is every fundraiser’s dream to have to turn away givers and perhaps the key to success lies in encouraging a willing heart.  

Last updated: 11:45am, March 7 2013