We are just about to finish the book of Exodus, reading the last two portions of the Torah reading. The work on the Mishkan, the Tabernacle, is drawing to an end, and Moses provides a detailed account of the income and expenditure of that project. He reports that, “All the gold that was used for the work, in all the work of the sanctuary, even the gold of the wave offering, was 29 talents and 730 shekels, according to the shekel of the sanctuary. The silver of those of the congregation who were numbered was 100 talents and 1,775 shekels… The bronze of the wave offering was 70 talents and 2,400 shekels.” As if this is not enough Moses continues to provide additional detail, “The hundred talents of silver were for casting the sockets of the sanctuary and the sockets of the veil; one hundred sockets for the hundred talents, a talent for a socket. Of the 1,775 shekels, he made hooks for the pillars and overlaid their tops and made bands for them….and the sockets of the court all around and the sockets of the gate of the court, and all the pegs of the tabernacle and all the pegs of the court all around.” This description continues of how the various cloths were used, the precious stones set, and the hides utilized. Everything is provided in meticulous precision.
The description continues, “They brought the tabernacle to Moses, the tent and all its furnishings: its clasps, its boards, its bars, and its pillars and its sockets; and the covering of rams’ skins dyed red, and the covering of porpoise skins, and the screening veil; the ark of the testimony and its poles and the mercy seat; the table, all its utensils, and the bread of the Presence; the pure gold lampstand, with its arrangement of lamps and all its utensils, and the oil for the light; and the gold altar, and the anointing oil and the fragrant incense, and the veil for the doorway of the tent; the bronze altar and its bronze grating, its poles and all its utensils, the laver and its stand; the hangings for the court, its pillars and its sockets, and the screen for the gate of the court, its cords and its pegs and all the equipment for the service of the tabernacle, for the tent of meeting; the woven garments for ministering in the holy place and the holy garments for Aaron the priest and the garments of his sons, to minister as priests.” Moses examines that which he has received “and behold, they had done it; just as the Lord had commanded, this they had done. So Moses blessed them.”
We may want to ask ourselves why is it necessary to perform this detailed examination of the work, of what has been brought in and what has been used. Is Moses really suspected of not being full reliable in this undertaking of God’s command?! Moses is a future looking leader, as each leader ought to be, and it is therefore that he accounts for everything. He validates that things went according to plan, reduced from the ideals received from God to a practical tabernacle which may be used by the Israelites. Therefore, when the Korah and his men complain about him he can truthfully respond, “I have not taken a single donkey from them, nor have I done harm to any of them.” (Numbers 16, 15). A person serving in a public office must know that when he or she wishes to take from the public that they have the duty to return it to them. The take may not find its way to his or her personal pocket. Those serving as elected or professional public positions must know that not only do they have the responsibility to provide detailed account of their doings, but that they must do so with integrity and only for the causes for which the public was requested or demanded to give.
The Mishkan is supposed to symbolize the connection between God plan and an earthly implementation of that plan. Moses checks not if there are differences between God’s plan and the actual physical structure but rather if there is any discrepancy between what was brought in and what was used in the process. God’s plan may be to complex or ambitious for humans to comprehend, but humans can check the earthly matters and make sure that there are no discrepancies there. This is what reflects God’s will – not that the Mishkan is perfect but that it was perfectly constructed in human parameters, in what humans can actually achieve and measure. In the past few months and weeks we are exposed to troubling news about suspicions regarding corruption in the dealings of public affairs by elected and professional public servants. For some reason some seem to think that this is no serious matter. They fail to understand that the difference between that which was collected from the public and that which has actually been used to benefit the public is the measure of corruption and that must be removed and eliminated from our lives. This must be done in a just way that reflect our values of justice, where suspects are presumed innocent until proven guilty, where it is the responsibility of the state attorney to prove that someone is guilty and not the other way round. We must keep our camp pure in a humanly way, it practical way, daily doing so. We must build our Mishkan day-in day-out, everyday anew, and everyday provide an account that we have done what we did properly.
Reuven Marko, 9 March 2018, 23 Adar, 5778