Tuesday, February 25, 2014

In-House Audit

Reading news reports about financial misconduct should definitely be more shocking. Alas, since it is an all-too-common occurrence, most of us merely sigh in disgust and move on with our lives, hoping to be spared ever being thus victimized.

Let’s face it, there are many ways to cheat and steal - whether by brazenly taking possession of another person’s belongings or the more devious means of stealthily embezzling a company’s financial resources.

Sadly, financial misconduct is not a new crime. People have always been drawn by the dream of getting rich quickly and easily. King Solomon, who was blessed with great wisdom, advised: “A faithful man shall abound with blessings; but he that makes haste to be rich shall not be unpunished” (Proverbs 28:20).

Because human nature is easily swayed by greed, and because people often assume that others may be guilty of deceit, it was ruled that in the dealings of the Temple that “the treasurers were [to be] not less than three, and the superintendents not less than seven, nor may authority be exercised in matters of money by less than two [officers present]” (Mishnah Shekalim 5:2).

The Midrash (Exodus Rabbah 51:1) connects this administrative law back to the building of the Tabernacle. In Exodus 38, a comprehensive accounting is conducted of every item used in the building of the Mishkan (Tabernacle). The statement of account concludes: “These are the accounts of the Tabernacle...as they were rendered according to the commandment of Moses, through the service of the Levites, by the hand of Ithamar, the son of Aaron the priest” (Exodus 38:21). The understanding, according to the Midrash, is that Ithamar served as Moses’ accountant, making certain that every gift that was received was properly recorded. This secondary audit prevented any negative speculation that Moses had personally gained from the wealth of gifts given to the Tabernacle fund.

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