Moshe Szweizer and Rivka Schlagbaum

OFFERINGS

What is the difference between a purchase, a donation and an offering?

A purchase

A purchase is an agreement between a purchaser and a vendor involving an exchange of funds for goods or services. For a purchase to take place, it is expected that both parties agree the price reflects the perceived value of the goods or services involved. Therefore, there is room for price negotiation between the parties involved. If one of the parties think the value differs from the asking price or the payment offered, they may walk away, preventing the transaction from taking place.

A donation

A donation is a one-way ticket, with the person giving it not expecting anything in return. Instead, in most cases, the donating person expresses in this way a desire to support a worthy cause, or to express his or her personal value or to manifest personal goodness. A donation may consist of money, but also of goods or services like for example, time spent helping those in need.

An offering

Similarly to the sale and purchase agreement, offerings involve two parties. The purchaser becomes a supplicant and the vendor a patron. Offerings can be made with anything of value to the supplicant. As this opens a wide spectrum of possible offerings, the patron reserves the right of rejection. However, even when an offering is rejected, it is not returned to the supplicant. In this respect offerings resemble donations. Furthermore, the patron reserves the right to determine how to respond to an offering. There is also no relationship between the value of an offering and the value of the response.

Thus, a supplicant makes a request and provides something of personal value to support it. Subsequently, the patron may reject the offering, or if accepting it, may respond through a deed involving any type of action. In this way, the patron has total control over the process and its effects.

Since the old times, the weak position of the supplicant was mitigated to some degree by the involvement of a priest, who acted as an intermediary, a negotiator and a supporter. The role of a priest was to present the offering in such a way as to make its acceptance more likely.

If making an offering is such a difficult proposition, why would anyone ever do so? The reason is that through offerings one may request something that is not possible to be purchased with money. Moreover, the request is unconstrained, thus one may ask for virtually anything, including abstract ideas.

As an example, let's look at an archaic custom of sacrificing an animal before a battle. The animal was of some value to the people. There was no relationship between the animal and the battle. The winning of the battle could not be purchased with money. The value of the animal was disproportionally lower than the value of winning the battle. There was no guarantee the offering would be accepted. At least a portion of the animal was burnt. Therefore, the flesh could not be returned to the people. If the offering was accepted, there was no way of predicting the response.
 
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Moshe Szweizer and Rivka Schlagbaum COPYRIGHT 2011. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.