"And we have brought… what each of us found, articles of gold, armlets and bracelets, signet rings, earrings... to make atonement" Numbers 31.50

By Rabbi Dr Charles Middleburgh, July 21, 2011

In periods of recession it is only to be expected that families look carefully at their household budgets to ascertain where they can find savings. Charities are all too aware that they may well lose out, for much as their cause may still be supported, the opportunity to save a few pounds in a time of tight economic circumstances can be a more powerful motivation.

In the account of Israel's travails in the wilderness in the latter chapters of Numbers, we read about offerings in kind brought to the sanctuary by the Israelites, personal possessions of some value to their donors. It reminds us, in an echo that resonates down the generations, of two important things: first, we all possess much more these days than we need, and second that if we can find it in ourselves to give our material things, it is but a small step forward to give an even greater gift, our time and ourselves.

Every rabbi knows that his or her synagogue is what it is in part due to the material generosity of its members, particularly those who have donated lavishly to its maintenance and accoutrements; but a frequent utterance round council tables and dinner tables of active members is the regret that more do not give their time and effort on a day-to-day basis.

The verse from Numbers reminds us that no charitable body can survive without money; and great new institutions like Mitzvah Day remind us that we need to "do" as well as give, and further that if we support our communities by giving our time and physical efforts to their welfare, we strengthen them and give them life, regardless of external economic circumstances.

Last updated: 11:25am, July 21 2011