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Trust Me

By: Ms Zippy Lerner

Parshat Pekudei’s psukim spend a great deal of time detailing specifically the contributions made towards the construction of the Mishkan.

A question to be posed at this juncture is why was this accounting necessary? What eternal message is to be extrapolated from what could eventually resemble a contemporary Excel spreadsheet?  Rabbi Lord Sacks answers this question in his second volume of Covenant and Conversation by first citing a possible hint from a Midrash from Tanhuma.

“They gazed after Moses” (Shemot 33:8) – People criticized Moses. They used to say to one another, “look at that neck. Look at those legs. Moses is eating and drinking what belongs to us. All that he has belongs to us.” The other would reply: “A man who is in charge of the work of the Mishkan – what do you expect? That he should not get rich?” As soon as he heard this, Moses replied, “By your life, as soon as the sanctuary is complete, I will make a full reckoning with you.”

Consequently, Moshe did issue a full account to Bnei Yisrael to remove suspicion that he had taken from contributions toward the Mishkan. Rabbi Sacks at this point notes that Moshe’s reckoning was done not by Moshe but by the Leviim under the direction of Itamar’, "in other words by independent auditors.”

So why did Moshe need to demonstrate that he did not benefit from contributions to the Mishkan and why was it necessary to have an independent individual examine the case?

Rabbi Sacks proposes that the central message to be taken from the detailed accounting of what contributions were made, and the public questioning of Moshe comes down to “integrity in public life” and that “trust is of the essence in public life.” A people who are unable to trust its leaders and its institutions are not able to function as a fully-fledged free society. Judaism and its texts continuously demonstrate that the Jewish people's leaders are where they are not “as a means to power” but as “a form of service” asked of them by Hashem. Judaism indeed is a forever shining example of a religion and a nation who are free to criticize and question its leaders and each other. There is no better illustration of this than in Neviim, where there are numerous examples of Prophets questioning its' leaders and their moral errors.

A detailed accounting of contributions to the mishkan and Moshe’s subsequent reckoning is not done because Moshe needs to prove himself to the people. Moshe (who was innocent and known for his integrity) with Hashem’s backing could have easily said ‘who are you to question me?’ Rather as Rabbi Sacks asserts, it was necessary to demonstrate that a leader’s accountability is critical. Trust between a people and their leader is tantamount to the conduct of a moral and ethical society.  What is Judaism, if not a cornerstone in the biblical world and thenceforth an eternal example of a society that functions on integrity and morality?

Shabbat  Shalom






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