Our Annual Report Card

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My children’s latest report cards went out recently and some of my children posted on our family WhatsApp group the grades they were proudest of.  I jokingly shared that my report card also just came out and posted the link to our annual BRS Global campaign, our effort and invitation to get those who watch, listen, read, and grow from the content we share to contribute and partner with us going forward. 


Like most jokes, there was a degree of truth to my response.  Right or wrong, the annual global campaign can feel like a report card on our content, a grade and score on the question of how well we are doing adding value and inspiration. 


As part of my role as Rav of Boca Raton Synagogue, Hashem has blessed me with the privilege to teach Torah widely through audio, video, writings, panels, podcasts and more.  With all of the wonderful feedback we receive, when we run the global campaign and ask for support from those who aren’t members of Boca Raton Synagogue or live in our community, something the data shows is that while Baruch Hashem a large group participates and contributes, when compared with the numbers accessing the content, the data is far from matching.  


I don’t think people are fundamentally unappreciative or ungrateful and (not joking here), I know they aren’t actively giving a report card of how much they value our hard work. But as I think about every year at this time, at the end of the day, all of us take much of what we enjoy, and that enhances and enriches our lives, for granted.

There are incredible resources that we live off of daily that we don’t pay for.  Consider the value Google, Gmail, Waze and countless other apps and technology products add to your life.  How much do we depend on and rely on them that if we needed to pay for them we would find the money.  Yet, while we pay by being part of Big Data, these life-changing resources don’t cost us anything in traditional currency. 


An unintended consequence of this new economy is cultivating a culture of entitlement and the expectation that even the things that benefit me enormously shouldn’t cost me money and I shouldn’t have to pay for them. 


Among many other ways, this phenomenon expresses itself in people moving to a community, attending a shul, eating at a kiddush, taking advantage of youth groups, going to shiurim, asking shaylos of the rabbonim, and yet still not joining through actual membership, even when it is structured to pay whatever you can afford.  It shows itself in those who listen, read, watch, enjoy, grow and are inspired by a speaker, organization and platform and fail to say thank you or show support, even when asked. 


Indeed, in a culture of “What do I get out of it”, we have added an incentive to our campaign this year.  In addition to just showing appreciation and paying it forward, a contribution of $180 will enter you in a raffle to win a wonderful weekend with us in Boca Raton including two domestic plane tickets and VIP tickets to the Ishay Ribo concert at BRS on April 7th


Please visit brsonline.org/global to become our partner and help others benefit from the content that has moved you.  We see each and every person that contributes and read the beautiful messages that many have chosen to write.  The gestures and generosity not only mean the world to us, but each one inspires and motivates us, and for that we are so profoundly appreciative.


This Parsha contains the mitzvah of Machatzis HaShekel.  Every man over twenty was obligated to give one half-shekel weight of silver, approximately nine grams of silver, worth about $5.99 today, which was used to operate the Beis HaMikdash and which rendered the animals purchased with these funds genuinely communal sacrifices.  This required gift had an unusual condition:


“The rich shall not pay more and the poor shall not pay less than half a shekel…”  Why not let the rich pay more and cover the entire cost of the communal sacrifices?  Wouldn’t it make sense to let the poor preserve their money to support themselves and allow the wealthy to underwrite the communal activity?  And why is this command even necessary? Wouldn’t each individual want to contribute to be counted among the community and be among those supporting the communal sacrifices?


The tendency of people to assume, “Someone else will take care of it” is hardly new.  Someone else will pay, someone else will volunteer, someone else will lead.  The Torah reminds each individual that it is not someone else’s responsibility or obligation but our own.  To be counted among the community, your local community, your broader learning community, the community of the greater Jewish people, it isn’t enough to speak about values, one must act on them.  It isn’t enough to say one cares, one must exhibit commitment and tangibly show they are a stakeholder.


In Judaism, gratitude is not a debt we pay, it isn’t simply a means of making the one who gave us whole.  Gratitude isn’t just for the recipient; it is for the one who communicates it to express humility and a recognition of being dependent on one another.  Moshe was not allowed to strike the Nile, an inanimate river, because he needed to show appreciation, even if the Nile wouldn’t have missed it had he not.  


Contributing locally, globally or to Israel, even when it isn’t required, giving even when it isn’t demanded, is a great expression of appreciation, a statement of who we are, even more than how much we value the one we are giving it to.   


When your taxes are filed in this world and when your contributions are measured in the next one, when it comes to showing gratitude and empowering what you claim to care about, what grade will appear on your report card?