Why would Moses, surely one of the most righteous people who ever lived, require a detailed accounting for the donations made to build the tabernacle?
This week’s Torah reading, Pekudei, starts out with Moses commanding an accounting of all the materials that had been donated to build the tabernacle. Most of the rest of the reading is taken up with the details of how much silver, gold, fine cloth, etc., was used in the construction and manufacture of the tabernacle and items related to service there.
Or Hachaim (Chaim ben Moses ibn Attar, an 18th century rabbi) said that there was no need for an accounting, except that Moses commanded one. Moses wanted the accounting taken because as it says in the Torah, “you shall be clean before God and Israel,” he didn’t want there to be the least suspicion that he had used some of the donated funds for his own personal benefit.
We can learn several things from this teaching of Or Hachaim:
- Your reputation is important; this is affirmed by the teaching that there are three crowns, the crown of Torah, the crown of the Priesthood, and the crown of a good name, which is the Mishnah says is the most precious of all.
- No one, no matter how righteous — not even Moses — can be confident that he will be above suspicion. Human nature is such that there will always be people who will suspect your motives no matter how honestly altruistic you are.
- The best antidote to such suspicion is transparency. And it is best to be proactive with such transparency, as Moses was, rather than waiting for some outside force to impose transparency on you.
And of course the accounting in this week’s parsha shows that no job is done until the paperwork is finished!