Watching the news, reading the paper, or even catching the headlines on Twitter can leave you feeling down and out about the moral standing of our leadership. We expect the highest level of honesty and integrity out of our leaders, especially where our financial wellbeing is concerned, and it has almost become more shocking when leaders are upstanding citizens than when they do something morally disgraceful.
The double portion we read this week, Vayakhel-Pekudei (the final portions in sefer Shemot), teaches about the work of building the tabernacle. Moshe, the great leader of the Israelite people from Egypt back to the land of Israel, is given enormous responsibility. He is asked not only to lead the people and be the emissary between the people and God, but also to take care of the accounting of the materials needed to build the tabernacle and all that goes with it.
In reading the text, especially chapter 38, we wonder why Moshe is giving a detailed accounting of the materials used and their specific usage in the building of the tabernacle. After all, Moshe was the trusted leader of the people; why did he feel the need to account for each piece of gold and silver collected? The midrash explains that had Moses been no better at record keeping than the rest of the Israelites, the people might have begun to question his authority and lose trust in him. In order to maintain their trust, Moshe himself took the utmost care to keep this accounting.
Along with the necessity for the tabernacle materials, the texts teach about the importance of giving tzedakah from a place of honesty and free will, not because we might somehow benefit. As we read these words, we’re asked to think about our own behaviors and how we want to be perceived in the eyes of others. Am I donating to a certain organization because of the tax deduction, or am I sincerely championing the cause?
Our parshah this week approaches these financial issues from multiple angles. First we have the example of Moshe, who understands that we don’t just expect our leaders to be decent people. We expect them to be better people. Then we have the reminder that we should be upfront about our actions and who might benefit by them. Imagine a world where each of us is held to that higher standard. Let’s look forward to the day when scams and schemes no longer make the news, not because they have become an accepted way of life, but because we realize that the strength of a healthy community of people is more valuable than anything we can put a price on.
ללמוד To Learn: ללמד To Teach: As you go through your donations for the year to come, include your children in the decision making process. Perhaps explain to them why you choose to give to certain organizations and not others. Teach them what you see as the benefit of giving and what you hope others take away from your gift.
לשמור To Keep לעשות To Do: Our text teaches that Shabbat is to be a day of rest, no work, creative or otherwise is to be done. Challenge yourself to have an eco-friendly, work free day where you do not use natural resources or monetary resources. Spend the day together as a family. Then, tell me about it. Participate in National Day of Unplugging on March 23rd-24th 2012. Visit http://www.sabbathmanifesto.org/unplug for more information.