Wikipedia currently includes 6,625,320 articles with an average of 558 new articles being added each day. Close to 6 billion unique Wikipedia users access the articles regularly, completely free of charge. So what covers the cost of operating Wikipedia? At the end of each year, for a month, Wikipedia runs a banner ad asking users to donate so that they can continue to offer their service for free. At the end of 2022 a controversy erupted with many of the dedicated volunteer Wikipedia contributors and editors protesting the aggressive fundraising tactics and language, given how robust their coffers are.
In the 2021–22 fiscal year, Wikipedia’s fundraising brought in $165 million from 13 million donations, more than enough to cover any expenses. So, even if you regularly enjoy and benefit from Wikipedia, you may choose to x out of the banner pop-up asking you to give.
But what other free resources do you regularly benefit from that do need your help and that could very much benefit from your generosity? Do you just take from them, or do you also give? Do you x out or do you click in to express gratitude and pay it forward?
There are thousands of people each week, not only in person but on Youtube, Whatsapp groups, podcast players and more, who benefit from BRS shiurim, classes, programs, conversations, writings, and posts. While our core community of course remains our local BRS members, our BRS Global Community learns together and shares values and a vision. It is tremendously gratifying humbling, and rewarding that in 2022, 3.7 million minutes of mostly shiurim, but also panel discussions and interviews, were watched on our YouTube channel (youtube.com/rabbiefremgoldberg) around the world.
This week we are once again running our campaign inviting non-BRS members to partner with us and enable us to provide more learning opportunities and programs. 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 coming week, we will observe a practice in commemoration of the Machatzis Ha’Shekel. 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:
הֶֽעָשִׁ֣יר לֹֽא־יַרְבֶּ֗ה וְהַדַּל֙ לֹ֣א יַמְעִ֔יט מִֽמַּחֲצִ֖ית הַשָּׁ֑קֶל “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 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 there are a stakeholder.
The more our benefit is anonymous, cloaked by our device, the less we feel obligated to contribute or show appreciation for the value added to our lives. It is easy to x out of the appeal, the ad, or the pop-up, and move on to the website, there is no shame, no embarrassment. But that doesn’t make it proper.
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 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.
Studies show that expressing gratitude can improve sleep quality, reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety, and improve connectedness. Showing appreciation has physical health benefits as well. Research shows that people who practice gratitude have lower levels of inflammation and experience fewer physical symptoms of stress.
Please consider helping us, and helping yourself in the process, by showing gratitude and giving to our campaign.