Parshat Va-Yakhel, Exodus 35:1-38:20
I am not at all astute concerning anything to do with financial investing, but I do believe that we are living in very turbulent economic times. My kishkes tell me that in contemporary times there is no such thing as a safe, sure and secure guaranteed investment. There is economic volatility everywhere you look, interest rates on deposits are nonexistent, and the stock market is bleeding. Gold and other metals have dropped dramatically, and real estate is about to tank. There is one remaining investment that is guaranteed to grow and continues to yield dividends well into the future without loss of principle or lower value due to inflation. This investment is alluded to in this week’s special Torah portion of Shekalim.
Shekalim is one of the four special Torah portions that precede Passover and discusses a special census consisting of a half-shekel contribution that was used to count the Israelites. Rich and poor were equally obligated to contribute the same amount of a half shekel. This equal participation went for the building and maintenance of the Tabernacle.
The Torah in Exodus Chapter 10, Verse 12 informs us that each person was obligated to “give” as charity this half-shekel as a means of atonement. The word used by the Torah for “give” is the Hebrew word vinusnu spelled vuv,nun,taf,nun,vuv. The word vinusnu is referred to in English as a palindrome — a word that reads the same backward and forward. This unusual choice of this word was not inserted by coincidence.
The commentaries suggest that this literary anomaly signifies that whatever one gives to charity will in the future be returned to them without loss of principal and will most likely yield future profits and gain. One’s fortune will never be depleted because of the charity they gave. Everything you give comes back with dividends.
The lesson we all learn from this Torah portion tells us that now is not the time to purchase stocks, bonds and commodities, but to “give” in the manner described in the Torah. We should contribute to our synagogues, communal institutions and to those in need.
Charity is a guaranteed return for anyone who invests in this greatest of mitzvot. The best investment is in your children. Jewish education will produce benefits for them that will last a lifetime. Purchasing Israeli Bonds is a sound economic investment on many levels, and a synagogue membership coupled with regular attendance will also help guarantee that your mishpacha will remain part of the Jewish community.
Rabbi David Novitzky is the spiritual leader of Beth Israel Congregation in Washington, Pa. This column is a service of the Greater Pittsburgh Rabbinic Association.