Pekudei – Above Suspicion and Temptation
In Parshat Pekudei, the last reading of the book of Exodus, an accounting is given of all the expenses of the Mishkan. This amount was matched against the contributions made, to show that no monies were missing or misappropriated. It is interesting that Moses felt compelled to make such an accounting. It is also noteworthy that the Torah included this in its literature, indicating that an important lesson is available for us to draw.
In the book of Numbers Aaron and Miriam spoke critically about the way Moses conducted his family life. The Lord intervened and chastised them for discussing this judgmentally. “Not so is My servant Moses, in my entire household he is the trusted one.” God Himself endorsed the honesty of Moses, yet he had to vindicate his honesty here by revealing his tax returns to the public! He had to show every receipt and account for every cent that had gone into building the Mishkan under his watch.
Again in the book of Numbers, we find that the tribes of Gad and Reuven requested territories east of the Jordan to suit the needs of their livestock. In the course of the negotiations Moses made the territories conditional upon these tribes’ participation in the conquest of the land generally. He instructed them to send troops to assist in conquering the land, “…so that you will be clean before God and Israel…” (32:22) This phrase is appropriated by the sages as the source for showing openly one’s innocence and staying away from activities that might arouse suspicion of wrongdoing. It is important to be above suspicion, not only in the eyes of God, Who sees all, but also in the eyes of men. Thus Moses removed himself from any possible suspicion by laying out the ledgers for all to see.
There is another gain to be had from public exposure. Hillel the Elder in Avot (2:4) states“Don’t believe in yourself until your day of death.” Hillel is admonishing us never to trust that we cannot be corrupted. The Torah says more than once that bribery blinds and corrupts even the most wise and righteous. The lure of riches has turned many an honest man into a crook. By committing to a public accounting of all Mishkan expenses Moses did more than vindicate himself in the eyes of the public, he negated the possibility of corruption. Visibility can do what the conscience sometimes fails to do. All incentive to cheat is removed when one is being watched.
These two lessons are central to a person dealings with valuables. Moses carefully accounted for both, vindicating himself from any suspicion as well as setting up measures to prevent greed from getting the better of him