WORD STUDY – EARNINGS: לקח
Exodus 25:1-2: “And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: ‘Speak to the children of Israel, that they take for Me an offering; of every man whose heart prompts him, you shall take My offering.’”
Why did God want the people to donate their gold, silver and other possessions of their prosperity to build His sanctuary? God is rich enough, why not provide this out his vast creation, why take it from his people?
The Jewish sages teach that the word for offering is terumah which really means an uplifting. By giving a terumah or offering you are uplifting the divine sparks of God to heaven making a connection with heaven. I may be wrong but I think what the sages are teaching is by giving an offering to God that is a form of prayer. It is also a form of worship and praise to God. Thus God instructs Moses that when they take the offering it must be as every man hearat prompts him.
The word take here is tikechu which comes from the root laqach which is really the word for looting. It is used by a foreign invader that has conqueored a city of town and by the nature of that conquest, they establish such superiority that they can just take what they want. In a positive sense it means to take from that something that was earned not given.
Let’s look closer at this word for offering or terumah. Interestingly this comes from the root word rum. For me that was the easiest word for me to memorize during my first year of Hebrew when we had to memorize over 1,000 Hebrew words. Rum means to be high, exalted. It also means to lift up or as the sages say to uplift. Other words could have been used for offering but God chose His words carefully. He does not need our gold or silver, but it is in the sacrifice of that which we pour our life’s blood into obtaining that exalts Him. It declares that He is more important to us that our gold or silver. The word laqach which is rendered as take, as in take an offering, is probably better pictured as one linguist picture is as a warrior who has faced combat, suffering the risk of injury, perhaps mortal injury and then when prevailing claims his right to take what he has from the conquered enemy. Then after having risk all to obtain it, he turns around and gives it to his king, just to honor him. The king does not demand it, but the warrior gives it out of love for his king. The warrior’s heart prompts him to give it to his king.
Thus, God make it clear by using the word laqach that this offering must not be taken out of obligation, to gain a political advantage or even to expect something in return. It must be given by every man whose heart prompts him. Note the syntax here. It is really, “what prompts your heart.” In other words let everyman give what his heart is prompting. In other words you do not say; “Ok everyone give ten dollars unless your heart prompts you to give me.. That is not a terumah given out of laqach, that is paying the admission cost to the meeting, it is expecting something in return.
The word prompt in the Hebrew this is nadav which has the idea – What is motivating you to go to work every day? To get that pay check. Then you are ask to give from that which has been impelling you or prompting you to give of your time away from your family, give your energy that you could spend on some hobby, to give of your emotional well being and take on the stress of the job so that you can bring home a paycheck. You are asked to give of that.
The sages teach that a person should seek ways to transform his tava’ot chitzonim (lit. external desires) – all that his heart prompts him into good qualities. From his habitual bad traits, he should learn how to serve the Creator with the same passion and desire, even more intensely. The Jewish sages teach: “ For within every mundane desire the love of God can be found.”
No, I am not pushing prosperity teaching, but yet, God wants us to prosper in order to give us an opportunity to exalt Him, to make a sacrifice to Him. How can you sacrifice something if you don’t have it in the first place.
This is best explained in a story from the Talmud of a king who had a son that he wanted to teach the various subjects that a prince should now. But the boy failed to grasp a single area of knowledge. The king gave up and sought the assistance of an old sage to teach his son. One day the prince saw a beautiful young woman, who was a harlot and he desired her. The woman as a harlot was not one for the prince to marry. Yet the sage told the king at least the prince desired something, perhaps this could lead him to a desire for knowledge. So the king ordered the harlot brought to the palace. The sage ordered the young woman to not listen to the princes’ solicitations, unless he agreed to master one branch of knowledge. Afterwards she should demand that he learn yet another branch. This continued until he mastered all areas. Then when he acquired the knowledge, he became a wise man and rejected the harlot for a princess, as he realized she was not fitting for him. At this point he paid off the harlot for a job well done.
Yes, you give to the Lord and He repays you a hundredfold. So what do you do? You give more to continue the process. A real money making venture. But let’s face it, we may not so brazen as to demand God pays us a hundredfold in return, but somewhere in our hearts many of us, hating to admit it, will find a little mercenary motive in that offering. So it is true that despite our best intentions, we may still give to get that hundred fold, the just may be some selfishness behind our motives for dropping that check in the offering plate. That is only human. Yet God seems to have established a process in Exodus 25:1-2 whereby we will learn wisdom and in the acquistion of that wisdom the nadav of our hearts will change and before long it will not be to acquire wealth, but to exalt the one that we truly desire to honor.