Thursday, March 7, 2019

The Transparency of a Conjunction

One of the hallmarks of personal integrity, is financial accountability and transparency. It behooves religious organizations, as ethical role models, to exhibit the highest level of honesty with money. The treasurers in the Temple enacted certain behaviors to assure financial transparency and scrupulousness avoiding even a smidgen of the appearance of impropriety.

Among the minute details of the construction of the Tabernacle mentioned in parashat Pikudei, we find the following: “and from the one thousand and seven hundred seventy-five [shekels of silver] he made hooks for the pillars [of the courtyard fence] and covered their tops and belted them” (Exodus 38:29). The Midrash (Yalkut Shimoni, Pikudei #415) relates an astounding “account” regarding Moses’ attempt to ensure fiduciary transparency.

“When the work of the Mishkan was completed, Moses invited others in and agreed to publicly audit the ‘books’ of the donations for the Tabernacle. All of Israel entered, and Moses concluded the calculations, but could not account for 1,775 shekels. Moses tried to remember where that missing money could have gone. He stated, ‘Now the Israelites will accuse me of taking the money.’ God enlightened Moses and he saw the hooks for the pillars, which cost 1,775 shekels.”

Are we really to believe, as the Midrash seems to suggest, that the Jews would have suspected Moses of theft, or that Moses feared that he would be suspected of pilfering?

Perhaps the focus of the Midrash is more on the hooks, not Moses’ transparency. The Hebrew word for hook (vav) is also the same word as the conjunction “and.” When Moses realized the unaccounted funds were for hooks, it helped him realize that his destiny was linked and connected to that of his flock, the Children of Israel.

The goal of the Tabernacle was to link the Children of Israel with their Father in Heaven and to help connect each Jew to every other Jew.

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