If you’ve ever been solicited by a charity (or cousin out of work), you may have been told outright (or made to feel) that you should “give until it hurts.” In Terumah, we see how giving is not about “hurting,” but about “healing.”

In the storyline, the Jewish people left Egypt, stood at Mount Sinai, received theGiving is not about hurting, but healing Ten Commandments, and then, in one of the worst fits in our history, thinking that Moses was dead, built a golden calf to be his replacement. After those responsible were punished, G‑d commanded us to build the mishkan—the portable Tabernacle we carried with us in the desert that housed the tablets of the Ten Commandments.

To build this Tabernacle, however, required a lot of building materials and precious metals. Imagine how challenging this must have been for a slave population suddenly made free, instantaneously going from rags to riches, and now being asked to part with their newly acquired possessions. Unlike any other financial levy that had ever occurred in the ancient world, however, G‑d told Moses to collect these offerings from “every heart-inspired person,” leaving it up to the dictates of each person’s heart not only how much to donate, but whether to donate at all.

In a way, discretionary giving can be harder. For people accustomed to having no choices, being told to give a certain amount is probably not too difficult. But what personal experience could the Jewish people draw on to make this type of decision? Perhaps the deeper lesson that G‑d was teaching the Jewish people was that in becoming givers, they would not only become free, but happier as well.

From Slavery to Freedom

In freedom, there isn’t always a script or a set formula. It’s the sum of your choices that makes you who you are. And unless you have the right to say “No,” what is the real value of your “Yes?”

A defining moment for the Jewish people—the exercise of giving freely (or not)—allowed them to transition from being a slave to a free-willed human since the nature of a slave is not to be a giver or a decision-maker.

The Jewish people in the desert responded to this challenge, and gave and gave until Moses had to tell them to stop. Their generosity did not necessarily stem from the fact that they suddenly had something to give. It came from a desire to give. Having intimately known what it was like not to have anything, when given the opportunity to make a decision to help, they jumped at the chance. It was a sign of their freedom, but more importantly, a sign of their humanity that slavery tried to rob them of.

Perhaps the feeling of closeness and connection that the Jewish people had with G‑d at that time allowed them to tap into their G‑dly essence—an inspired heart, which means living from the place of abundance. As Wayne Dyer points out, “Abundance is not something we acquire. It is something we tap into.” And that creates joy because giving makes us happier.

The Joy of Giving

People who give money to charity are vastly more likely than non-givers to say that they are “very happy” about their lives. It’s not always about giving moneyDoing good correlates to feeling good either, as research shows that volunteers are much happier as well. A Harvard Business School study concluded that giving not only increases happiness but happier people, in turn, give more, and that these two relationships may operate in circular fashion. It should come as no surprise that doing good correlates to feeling good. So doesn’t it make sense to be on the lookout for ways to increase your happiness, as you are increasing happiness in the world?

Don’t worry; I would never suggest that you become a doormat or give indiscriminately. Giving from the heart doesn’t mean that we leave our brains out of the equation. I am suggesting, however, that we take a cue from Terumah and understand, as Anne Frank famously wrote, that “no one has ever become poor from giving.”

So as you go through your week, notice when you are giving—whether it’s writing a check, shoveling snow for an elderly neighbor, offering up a parking spot, throwing a quarter in a stranger’s expired meter or providing someone a shoulder to cry on. Make a conscious effort to honor a request from a loved one, give some space and breathing room to a partner, hold back a zinger or find a way to say the right word at the right time. And pay attention to the many gifts and blessings that you receive as well. In so doing, may you feel more galvanized to live from a “heart-inspired place.”

Internalize & Actualize:

  1. What makes it hard for you to be generous or to let go? If you find you are always giving to others, do you find that you struggle with giving to yourself with that same level of generosity? If so, why?
  2. What would it take for you to shift from a feeling of lack to a feeling of abundance?
  3. Write down a person or situation where you are able to contribute. What would you need to be able to let go of—whether it’s giving up resources, time, a need to control, a need to be right, a need to judge or a need to look good—to truly help?