We constantly hear that we live in a selfish society; we must look out for number one to get ahead. This is, of course, true. It is incumbent on every person to look after themselves and their family. However, it is easy to forget that life loses some of its meaning when that becomes our sole focus.
This week the Torah gives us some of the laws of voluntary donations to the Temple. The most common reaction to hearing these laws is: "why? Why would anyone want to do that?" Why does the Torah tell us how to make a specific voluntary donation when we already have so many obligations? The answer is that voluntarism is essential. A willingness to contribute beyond the bare minimum expected of us is necessary for society and most groups within it. The bare minimum mandated by law is only rarely enough.
Additionally, volunteering is good for the volunteer as well. Studies have suggested that volunteers are more likely to succeed in their personal endeavours (like graduating from university). They are more likely to be happy and satisfied with their life. Perhaps most obviously, they are more likely to connect with and be tolerant of others. The value of giving more than is expected of us is not merely that we build better communities and society; it helps us be better and healthier people.
Today we all woke up to yet more economic bad news. Power bills will go up, affecting almost every one of us. It's easy to see this time as too challenging to contribute to the broader community. We have enough to worry about at home. The lesson in the Torah this week is that the opposite is true. Slightly straightened times are the best to amp up our involvement, whether it is financial or in some other way so that we can all reap the benefits of our efforts together.