DAY // WAY 87: SHABBAT THOUGHTS WITH RABBI ZIMMERMAN

100 Days – Naso

by Rabbi Marcia Zimmerman, Temple Israel

 

Rabbi Marcia Zimmerman

Rabbi Marcia Zimmerman

This week’s Torah portion creates a perplexing reading of the text through the use of grammatical ambiguity.

The text reads:

And every portion from any of the holies that the children of Israel bring to the Kohen shall be his.  A man’s holies shall be his, and what a man gives to the Kohen shall be his.  (Numbers 5: 9-10)

What does the Torah mean that a man’s holies shall be his?  Does it mean the holies are given to the individual or to the Kohen?  Using nouns and pronouns in a cryptic fashion confuses the meaning of the text – or does it?  I believe there is a profound lesson held deep inside what might at first glance seem like a problem of grammatical clarity.

The idea that the possession of a person’s holies belongs either to himself or the Kohen teaches us that when things are holy, they are given to more than one person simultaneously.  When our acts are holy – when our lives are holy – we give as much as we receive.shabbat day_zimmerman

For example, the gift of Tzedakah is a gift that is given from one’s treasures and resources.  People who only see giving as the depletion of their resources rarely are generous and often do not receive the ultimate satisfaction that giving can award.

100 days-01There is social research that has monitored the health of giving.  According to a survey and study by researchers Dunn, Akin, Akin and Norton, giving actually makes one happier.  They randomly assigned people into different groups, giving one group instructions to spend $5 on themselves and one group to spend $5 on others.  Those who gave away the money reported being much happier.  Those who spent money on themselves showed no change in happiness.

The bottom line is that giving gives you pleasure and can make you happy.  The Torah is teaching us this very same message.  If giving to the Kohen makes one feel blessed and happier, then giving to the Kohen comes right back to you – so it’s both the individual and the Kohen who are simultaneously rewarded.

In these last 100 days of the community Federation campaign, we are taught in the Torah the age-old lesson that giving does not diminish us but rather shores us up, that what we give to others is also a gift we receive.  This is confirmed by modern social science.  As Ecclesiastes says, “There is nothing new under the sun,” so from this moment forward let us all turn first to Jewish texts to find the answers for the 21st century.

***

Be sure to check out the rest of our 100 Days events and posts on Twitter as well as on our website. Like posts like this? Why not give us a “chai” five?

Donate $18

Print Friendly