Rabbi Berel Wein
The basic lesson in this week’s Torah reading is accountability. G-d demands from Moshe and the others who formulated and created the Tabernacle in the desert to account for all the material that was donated by the Jewish people for that purpose. The last piece of silver that was donated had to be accounted for, but Moshe was distressed that he could not account for 1,000 measures of the silver. He finally remembered that this donation of silver was used for constructing hooks that bound the tapestries of the Tabernacle together. The hooks must “shout” to remind us of their presence and to make Moshe’s accounting complete and accurate.
Accounting is a very painstaking project. Most people view it as bordering on boring. Nevertheless, there is no commercial enterprise that can successfully exist without good and accurate accounting practices.
The financial accounting in our Parsha regarding the materials that were used in the construction of the Tabernacle is a template for proper human behavior concerning the use of resources in all areas of life. This is especially true in matters that border on religious institutions that are held to the highest of all standards and are to be above any suspicion of corruption. The Priest of the Temple wore garments that had no pockets and could not conceal any hidden items of value that might be removed from the Temple.
This overriding meticulous standard and value of accountability is not limited to financial matters. Judaism teaches us that we are all accountable for our actions – behavior, speech, attitudes and even thoughts. We were created as being responsible creatures – responsible to the Creator and to the other creatures that exist with us on this planet. We are given talents that are unique to each one of us. The challenge that is put before us is how those talents and abilities can be used for good and noble causes.
There are many who think that the gifts that they have been given are for their exclusive use and that there is no need or obligation to share them with others. They are sadly mistaken in this view. People are accountable for what they have, as they were for the supposedly insignificant amount of silver that was used to construct hooks that kept the tapestries together.
King Solomon states in Kohelet that one should realize that all actions and behavior will eventually be weighed on the scales of heavenly justice. We live in a time when accountability, to a great extent, has been replaced by excuses, social engineering, economic and psychological theories. All of these are used only to avoid the issue of accountability. To be human is to be responsible, and that is the message not only of this week’s parsha, but of everything in Judaism.