Daf Yomi Nedarim 29
‘When you raise money to build a building, nobody wants to buy the bathroom.’
That was the sage advice I received many years ago from a fundraising mentor.
‘Instead,’ he continued, ‘you sell the sanctuary over and over. Everyone wants to own a piece of the sanctuary.’
Mishnah: If a person vows, ‘May these plants be an offering until they are chopped down,’ they have no redemption.
The Gemara asks: Never?
Rav Pada answers: You redeem them and they are resanctified. You redeem them and they are resanctified and so on, until they are chopped down. Once they are chopped down, you redeem them one final time and that’s it.
Ula says: Once they are chopped down, they no longer require redemption.
Rav Hamnuna said to him: Where did their sanctity disappear to? It’s like a man who says to a woman, ‘Today you shall be my wife but tomorrow no more.’ Would she be permitted to walk away without a divorce?
Rava responds: How can you compare material holiness to personal holiness? Material holiness may disappear, personal holiness does not disappear!
People like donating money towards buildings. You see your donation in bricks and mortar. It’s tangible. You can see very clearly how your money has been spent.
It’s much more difficult to raise funds for programming and salaries. As the donor, you have no idea where your money’s gone. You almost feel as if you have nothing to show for your donation, nothing to point to!
But as Rava says, material holiness eventually disappears. Buildings don’t last forever. Even the Western Wall has long since shed its donation plaques. Personal holiness, however, never disappears. When you invest your charitable dollars into human capital, your investment has an impact upon generations and generations of real, live human beings.
When you donate towards outreach programs such as NCSY, you earn a share in all the successes of the program. When young people are impacted and they make a decision to commit themselves and their future families to live a Jewish life, your donation lasts an eternity. Material holiness may disappear, but personal holiness does not disappear!
It makes a person feel good to see their name on bricks and mortar. But major investments don’t bear fruit immediately; it takes years of hard work and commitment. May you merit investing your charitable dollars wisely and bearing fruit for generations upon generations of committed Jews!