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I Asked for Money

I Asked for Money

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He is a wealthy businessman, well able to afford a donation. I've known him for a while, we've become friendly, he'd expressed interest in our organization and had even made a few suggestions about projects we may care to undertake. I figured that he was already emotionally invested in us and decided it was time to ask him to support the cause.

We arranged an appointment. I came prepared. I made my pitch, explained our plans, emphasized the opportunities that lay ahead and then paused.

The pause.

He's not cheap, nor did he claim to be overcommitted—he just asked for a bit more timeFundraising manuals explain that this is the moment when you sit back and let the potential donor step through the door you have opened. You don't want people to feel overly pressured, but hopefully you have sold your vision for the future so effectively that people jump on board for the ride.

That time it didn't work.

It wasn't that he didn't agree to contribute; he did. It wasn't that he wasn't enthusiastic; he loved the idea and said so at length. He's not cheap, nor did he claim to be overcommitted—he just asked for a bit more time to consider.

He's still thinking about it.

I stop by once in a while. He's still super friendly, still vitally interested in our good work, but he's also still considering his options and deciding what level of support he wishes to offer. I honestly believe that he's not lying or deliberately toying with me, he just cannot bring himself to cross the finish line of philanthropy. With all the good will in the world he is yet to give any actual assistance.

I Do

I was watching a wedding the other day, when a thought struck me. It's sort of strange that right in the middle of the ceremony we pause to read the ketubah. The ketubah is a dry document written in Aramaic legalese that details the financial obligations of the husband. It is bland, it is boring, and you would think it somewhat intrusive to the path of true romance.

Marriage is a serious moment; the unification of two souls. It's a time to take stock of our past lives and make commitments for the future. We resolve to live a life of love and harmony, be ever watchful of each other's feelings and dedicate ourselves to bring happiness to our new spouse.

So why bring up finances at this blissful moment?

Many of us lose enthusiasm when confronted with the harsh light of realityI'd like to suggest that all the high-minded commitments, the love and promises of the chupah, have to be grounded in practical reality. It is easy to make theoretical pledges but life swiftly develops into a long, hard slog out into the real world. We're expected to cope with real-time demands as we're dragged into the prosaic politics of practical existence. The realities of financial contracts and pre-nuptial agreements are not an intrusion on newlywed contentment; they are the glue that binds a couple's flight of youthful fantasy into a solid and dependable partnership.

Build Me a Temple

Could it be for this reason that the very first mitzvah we were given after receiving the Torah on Sinai was the commandment to donate towards the building of the Temple?

The Jews of the desert had made an open-ended promise: na'aseh venishma—"We will do and listen." They had committed to joining G‑d's team, signed up for a lifelong relationship.

But it's easy to promise, much harder to deliver. In theory, everyone wants to donate to worthy organizations, look after our spouses and be true to our G‑d. However, when it comes to practice, many of us lose enthusiasm when confronted with the harsh light of reality.

G‑d tested our mettle and trained us to obey. By demanding generosity and then building a Temple with the proceeds, G‑d transformed our vague promises of commitment into a secure bond. We paid our pledges, fulfilled our promises and settled down to enjoy a guaranteed return on our life-long investment.

Rabbi Elisha Greenbaum is spiritual leader of Moorabbin Hebrew Congregation and co-director of L’Chaim Chabad in Moorabbin, Victoria, Australia.
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