Exodus 25:2,8 Speak unto the children of Israel, that they bring me an offering: of every man that giveth it willingly with his heart ye shall take my offering….And let them make me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them.
The Tabernacle wasn’t built to look beautiful or to give the priests a place to work or the community a focus, although it might have also done all those things. It was built specifically so that God would be able to dwell among his people. He didn’t tell us exactly how it allows him to do that, only that it does. In order to build it, he asked those Israelites who had a heart to give, to bring a terumah, a lifting up. The rabbis tell us that this refers to something offered up to God off the top, from the very best. God didn’t ask them to bring whatever they felt “led” to bring, but he asked for a very specific list of items. Platinum or lead or solid oak planks wouldn’t do, even if those things might be quite valuable to their owners. They weren’t suitable to the task at hand. God didn’t promise them anything in return. There were no riches in store for those who gave up these costly items, only the satisfaction of their love for God fulfilled.
In many ways, the Tabernacle is a pattern around which we are to build our lives. God has blessed us with many gifts, but there are specific things which he has entrusted to our care that he wants us to return to him so that he may live among us. I can’t tell you what that might be for you. That’s between you and God. However, I can tell you that it isn’t your leftovers. He wants your first and best, your terumah. He doesn’t promise you anything in return except his presence. He asks that you sacrifice your time, your gold, your planks of shittim, or bolts of linen, whatever it is that he has given especially to you so that you can demonstrate your love for him by giving it back.
This is love for your Creator: surrendering your best without asking anything in return.