Parshas Vayakhel - Pekudei
Repetition is the Soul of Honesty
The book of Shemot is reaching its conclusion in this week’s double parsha.
The final review of all of the artifacts, construction and costs of the
mishkan is detailed before us. The transparency that we all claim to long
for in governmental spending and budgets is realized in the Torah’s
exquisite detail in accounting for all income and spending on the mishkan.
This is an example of the soul of public trust and accountability as it
should be practiced. The fact that this occurs in relation to holy purposes
– the construction of the mishkan and its artifacts – only intensifies the
lesson that impeccable integrity is necessary in such matters. Too many
times people think that for holy projects and Torah welfare somehow corners
can be cut and that the responsibility for funds donated and used can be
The torah itself clearly does not tolerate such ideas and behavior. The
Torah many times over warns us of the danger of corruption, even so-called
“holy” corruption. It blinds us and distorts all of our achievements and
accomplishments. Even the great Moshe whose face shines with the radiance of
heaven itself must be publicly held accountable.
I think that is why after so many millennia after the disappearance of the
mishkan from the midst of Israel these parshiyot are still read publicly in
our synagogues. The message of accountability and transparency in public
monetary matters is the keystone to holiness. The holiness of the mishkan is
dependent upon these principles and values.
Another idea present here is the importance of repetitiveness in these
matters. The Torah recounts in detail what it has already told us earlier
regarding the construction of the mishkan and its artifacts. Since reading a
budget or studying a data sheet is not necessarily the most fascinating
reading in the world, the Torah’s insistence upon recounting these matters
is at first glance most puzzling. But it is the repetition as much as the
content itself that is the Torah’s message to us.
Repeating the accounting of the construction of the mishkan – its expenses
and labor and talent – emphasizes to us that the holy mishkan was crafted
efficiently and honestly. There is no longer any question regarding its
probity when the Torah lists for us the materials and work once more.
The second accounting must coincide exactly with the first description of
the materials and work involved. And repetition is the soul of honesty. One
must train one’s self to be honest, to resist temptation and shoddiness.
Goodness and truthfulness are conditioned by habitual behavior more so than
by inspired sermons and learned treatises.
In Yiddish there was a folk saying that “truth is the best lie.” A lie
requires many other lies to cover its tracks. Truth stands pristine and
strong always. Therefore it is not only the first accounting that is
important in public and holy matters but the later accounting is also of
equal if not even more importance. This week’s double parsha certainly
drives this point home.
Rabbi Berel Wein