…וְיִקְחוּ לִי תְּרוּמָה. מֵאֵת כָּל אִישׁ אֲשֶׁר יִדְּבֶנּוּ לִבּוֹ (שמות פרק כה:ב-ג)
Hakadosh Baruch Hu asks Klal Yisrael to “take a terumah for me.” Chazal point out that Hakadosh Baruch Hu did not demand terumah, rather, as the pasuk notes “all with a giving heart.“
I saw a question “Why does Hakadosh Baruch Hu ask that we give it from the goodness of our hearts, through nedivos? Klal Yisrael ‘owes’ it to Hakadosh Baruch Hu. He just delivered to them a windfall of wealth from the Egyptians, in both Egypt and on Yam Suf. They should be obligated to give back to Hakadosh Baruch Hu from the goodness that they received!
In America there was an expression that was often heard in the schoolyard: “an Indian giver.” This referred to a person who gave a present, and then at a later time demanded its return. On a simple level, while Hakadosh Baruch Hu could demand that Klal Yisrael return to him the wealth of Egypt, it would then create a negative aura on the original gift that He bestowed on them.
However, there is a deeper answer. The midda of “hakaras hatov” means that one recognizes his obligation to show appreciation to the giver. If someone did something for you, you will have an “obligation” to show appreciation to the giver. This obligation is not something that the original giver can demand from you, but rather an obligation borne out of your own appreciation of that which was given to you. Therefore, Hakadosh Baruch Hu cannot demand hakaras hatov—we must realize our own obligation of hakaras hatov.
The Torah then says that the gift should be given with nedivos halev—a giving heart. The Torah demands that if we give, it must come from a feeling that we want to please Hakadosh Baruch Hu. This aspect of hakaras hatov is left to us to ponder, to come to a realization that it is our honor to serve Hashem.
As we pay tribute this Shabbos to our mikdash me’at, not only am I thankful for the nedivos halev of all the people who went out of their way to show their support, but we are also appreciative for those who have shown hakaras hatov.