Pekudei 5774 – Advice for Hadassah

The Hadassah Medical Center at Ein Kerem is widely considered to be the best hospital in Israel, and is often called the best hospital in the entire Middle East. Modern facilities with the latest technologies. A sparkling new hospital tower that is truly state of the art. World-class medical personnel. Our youngest daughter was born there. It’s where we go for emergencies.

This magnificent facility (in combination with a sister facility at Mt. Scopus) is also bankrupt. It is 1.3 billion shekels ($371m) in debt.

If the management of Hadassah – in combination with the organization that provides the funding, Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America – had followed some advice from this week’s Torah portion they might have been able to avoid this crisis. As is, it is likely there will be a government takeover of the facilities.

This week’s Torah reading, Pekudei, starts off with an accounting of the materials that were contributed for the building of the mishkan, the portable tabernacle.

An obvious question is “why is this accounting necessary?” Moses was in charge of the project. Surely Moses was trustworthy. So why was the accounting needed?

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.

No one, no matter how righteous, is above suspicion. Some people will question anyone. Transparency can do a lot to dispel suspicion. And if something wrong IS going wrong – as it was at Hadassah – transparency is a bracing corrective.

In addition to preventing fraud, transparency prevents waste. When people are being held publicly accountable they will do a much better job of behaving responsibly.

The list of “sins” at Hadassah is long. Padded payrolls, lavish benefits, and lack of oversight. Read this Jerusalem Post article for details. Hadassah is finally informing its supporters of what’s going on (click here). But a recent survey in that appeared in Haaretz showed most Hadassah members were completely unaware of what was going on in Jerusalem, and had not received any communications from the organization on the issue.

Greater transparency in how Hadassah was run, and greater transparency in reporting waste to the people actually making the donations might have helped prevent Israel’s premier medical facility from going bankrupt.

Once again, the 3,000 year old wisdom in the Torah has something to say to us today. Human nature hasn’t changed all that much.

Barry Leff

Rabbi Barry (Baruch) Leff is a dual Israeli-American business executive, teacher, speaker and writer who divides his time between Israel and the US.

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