Parashat Pekudei

Keeping Accounts

Moses' account of all of the materials of the Tabernacle is a model for the honesty and transparency with which we should run our businesses.

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Have you ever noticed that the Ten Commandments take up only a handful of verses in the Torah, while the construction of the Tabernacle is given several chapters worth? Perhaps this is meant to mirror life itself--moments of high moral impact and lofty sentiments are short and infrequent, while shopping lists, renovations, and daily chores take up huge amounts of time. But this is all godly work, the Torah seems to be telling us. Even the most creative tasks have their tedious details; even the most mundane jobs can be infused with mindfulness and holiness.

Completion of the Tabernacle

This week's parashah, Pekudei, concludes the Torah's recounting of the building of the Tabernacle. This has been going on for five weeks--two weeks of instructions in designing the Tabernacle, two weeks describing the construction work, broken in the middle only by Ki Tissa, the story of how the Israelites came up with their own building project--the Golden Calf.

"These are the accounts of the mishkan" (Exodus 38:21), begins Pekudei, and then proceeds to tell us how much gold, how much silver, how much copper was used in its building. This seems curious. If the building of the mishkan (Tabernacle) was done according to God's specifications, and Moses was supervising the work, why does the Torah bother to give us an accounting? Surely Moses, of all people, could be trusted! Are these accounts just the wrap-up, the final audit of the books, on a par with the meticulously detailed blueprint for the Tabernacle? Or are they intended to impress us with the richness and beauty of the Tabernacle, built with precious materials in such abundance?

The rabbis in the midrash connect the accounts with the responsibility of leaders to their people, and with the age-old temptation for dishonesty and mistrust with regards to precious. The Midrash says:

Moses said: I know that Israel are grumblers. So I will give them an accounting of all the work of the Tabernacle. He then proceeded to give them such an account--"these are the accounts of the Tabernacle"--giving them an accounting for each and every item, whether gold, silver, or brass, that was used in the Tabernacle, in order of their use...

Apparently, whatever the people's feelings toward Moses in general, when it came to money, trust was a scarce commodity. Sure, Moses was trusted by God--but that wasn't necessarily the same as being trusted by people. Those in positions of power need to be aware of the jealousy that their power and actions can evoke. They particularly need to be sensitive, not only to doing the right thing, but to how people will perceive their actions and attitudes. The Midrash continues:

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Gilah Langner

Gilah Langner is a consultant and mother living in Washington, DC. She is co-editor of Kerem: Creative Explorations in Judaism.