The Parsha begins this week with the instructions that Hashem gives to the Jewish people regarding the donations for the Tabernacle. “Daber el bnei Yisroel” – speak to the Jewish people – “v’yikchu li terumah” – and they should take for me a separation. What is the meaning of li – for me? The commentaries explain that the meaning of this word is that the charity given should be for my sake – purely in order to serve Hashem. Why was this instruction given? Although it is certainly always better to do a mitzvah (commandment) for the sake of Heaven, why is this specified here by the mitzvah of giving charity?
Rav Moshe Sternbuch explains that in giving charity there is a very common pitfall. People will give big sums of money to build buildings, establish centers of study… Rav Naftoli Neuberger, was quoted to have said that he wished he could erect a new building every single year. However, when it comes to maintaining the buildings, paying salaries of teachers … not as many people step forward as graciously. It’s said that 95% of Jewish charity from foundations doesn’t even go to Jewish causes! This is what Hashem was telling the Jewish people. When you give charity, give it for my sake –to the causes that I list as a priority. Giving charity is not about attaining recognition, being noticed, or doing something in public. Indeed, often a special person will give a large donation in total secrecy. Rather, giving charity is about helping the proper people