Posted on March 23, 2011
by Daniel Greenspan
In today’s modern society we see it all too often. Mr. X, the president of a large charitable organization, is accused of a crime. However, this is not just any crime. Money that was donated is missing and funds were misused. The president just bought a new house, a new car and some very expensive tefilin. People are now asking how he could afford such costly items on his salary.
This scandal is one that we see all too often today and this week’s parsha, Vayyakhel, also deals with this issue. Just a few weeks ago we read about the specifications for the tabernacle and other such things. This parsha repeats them. Why? Well way back in the day of the Rabbis the same question was asked and once again they came up with an interesting answer. The Rabbis said that the reason the Torah repeats the list is to show that Moses did not misappropriate any of these funds. A Midrash from Tanhuma gives an example of this. It states, “Eyeing him [Moses] with contempt from behind, one [Israelite] would say to the other: Look at his [beefy] neck! Look at his [fat] thighs! He stuffs himself with what belongs to us and guzzles what is ours. And the other would reply: Stupid! A man appointed over the work of the tabernacle, over the talents of silver and talents of gold whose weight and number are too great to measure – what do you expect? That he would not enrich himself?” This is why Moses repeats the inventory of the materials used to build the tabernacle. From this we learn an important lesson: that those in charge of charitable organizations must hold themselves to the highest standards and be above all doubt.
Parshat Vayyakhel also deals with another issue of tzedaka. Moses says at the beginning of the sedra. “Take from among you gifts to the Lord, everyone whose heart so moves him shall bring them-gifts for the Lord. . .” (Exodus: Chapter 35, Verse 5) Later in the parsha in chapter 35, Verse 21 a similar line is repeated. What makes these lines so interesting is that today we as Jews take tzedaka as an obligation and responsibility upon ourselves, in terms of the world as a whole and our Synagogues. When Moses says “everyone whose heart so moves him” he implies that this mitzvah is not mandatory. Or maybe he means not mandatory for a house of worship. Could this week’s sedra be implying that there is a difference between helping others and helping our Synagogues? You decide.