Pedudei means “accounts” our “reckonings”. The Chumash explains that “these are the reckonings” suggests homiletically that the only meaningful reckoning is the account one makes of resources that are devoted to building G-d’s sanctuaries and otherwise used for the sake of Heaven. Only such investments are eternal, all others are transitory. As the Sages remark in Bamidbar Rabbah 22:8:
“The word ‘mamon’ (money) is a contraction of ‘mah atah moneh?’ (what are you counting?) and ‘e’no kelum!’ (it is worthless).”
How many worthless things are counted in our world? I have a degree in accounting, so this is a subject I know much about! I have spent many years counting income, inventory, return on investment, operating profit, taxes and interest due or owed, etc, etc.. But of all the counting I did during my career, there is none that had lasting significance.
So why was it necessary for Moshe to give an accounting to the children of Israel in regards to their donations? One lesson we can learn from this is that even a great leader must provide an accounting of how communal funds are dispersed. No one is above accountability, and the communal treasury should never be treated lightly. Accountability is a prerequisite for everything.
Now, in light of this, let’s talk about the accounting that has eternal, lasting significance. Accountability is also required for each of us in how we use our given resources to fulfill our life’s mission. The word “accountings” in this sidra is in the plural. Rabbi Trugman in his commentary (Orchard of Delight) explains that this hints to a deeper message: that each person is subject to multiple levels of accounting. He quotes Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach who taught that there is the accounting we do for what we did right, but in an unenthusiastic or routine, mechanical manner, without the proper kavanah (intention). R’ Carlebach also taught that we will be judged for both those things that we did and for the things we could or should have done but refrained from doing out of laziness, a lack of conviction, or callousness. Each one of us enter this world with a certain task, mission or tikkun (rectification) to perform. Even if we do everything right and can account for all our actions, the primary accounting that we will give on judgment day is whether or not we carried out our specified purpose. Therefore, it is very important that each of us know what our purpose is, and what path will lead us to our desired goal.
“If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.” (Alice in Wonderland)
In his commentary to this sidra, “Parsha Potpourri”, R’ Ozer Alport asks an important question: Which is more important? The means to accomplish a goal? Or the goal itself? He answers:
“The ultimate purpose of life is to earn a portion in the World to Come, yet the mechanism for doing so is the performance of mitzvot in this world. The focus of our lives is to elevate and perfect our souls, but the mechanism for doing so is the observance of the Torah with our bodies. The purpose of the mishkan was the Divine Service that took place inside through its vessels, while the mishkan itself merely represented the means to accomplish this goal.”
Before they sinned, Adam and Chava had a soul-dominated clarity of understanding. We no longer have that. Since that time when we received our body of flesh, the body has dominated the soul.
Ok, so we have a purpose, a goal to achieve, and we need to determine how best to accomplish it. And ultimately, we will have to give accountings for how we spent the resources entrusted to us to accomplish it. We need to make an accounting and explain our choices.
“Blessing is not bestowed upon things that are weighed, nor upon things that are measured, nor upon things that are counted. Blessing is bestowed only upon things that are hidden from the eye.” (Ta’anit 8b)
We have all, I’m sure, felt like a number not a name. That is not a positive feeling. Yet, we have all also likely experienced those moments of inspiration when we exclaim, “count me in!”. If we are counting things from a spiritual perspective, the counting is undeniably a positive action. And accountability is a necessary step in the process.
“When it comes to privacy and accountability, people always demand the former for themselves and the later for everyone else.” (David Brin, The Transparent Society)
Let’s be honest, we don’t want someone to question our decisions or actions, but we too often demand accountability from others. If only we could understand that the only accountability we really need to worry about is our own. We will be held accountable for our decisions and our actions, not for that of others.
We have all been tasked with building a place for Hashem’s Shechinah to reside. To the extent that we prepare ourselves to accept His Presence within us, that is how much He can reside in our “mishkan”. The more we strengthen ourselves, and improve our character, the more we allow for His Presence. And as we build our holy place, we will begin to understand more and more our specific purpose. We all have unique talents, gifts, and circumstances, custom designed by Hashem to help us reach our goal. That is what we will be held accountable for. How did we use them?
Here’s a really amazing detail. Chazal discuss the physical dimensions of the Holy of Holies and the Ark of the Covenant that was inside (Megillah 10b, Yoma 21a and Bava Basra 99a). Then they tell us, that after some good, old-fashioned number crunching, that the ark of the covenant miraculously took up no space. None! The message is clear: Holiness takes up no space. In the place of holiness, there is always room for more holiness. Do you understand the implication of this? Ladies, we so often make excuses for why we don’t grow spiritually. We don’t have enough time, or money, or whatever our personal excuse is. But we are really just making a choice, consciously or not, to not grow! If we truly have bitacon (trust) in Hashem, we will believe without fear, that He will make a way for our spiritual growth.
Rabbi Trugman tells us that our world is a reflection of a higher reality and that what we call “reality” in this world is actually a mirror image or reflection of what is occurring in the upper worlds. The name Bezalel (the mishkan’s builder) literally means “in the shadow of G-d”.
“We are profoundly affected by forces far greater than ourselves, by energies beyond our immediate understanding, yet we have the ability, and even responsibility, to effect the higher spiritual worlds – through our thoughts, speech, and actions. By doing so, we shape our own present and future.” (R’ Trugman, Orchard of Delight)
So, we must ask ourselves, “is this the task I was born for?”. If we are honest with ourselves, we know if we are using our lives wisely or not. Is what you do on a daily basis making a positive, eternal difference? Everything pertaining solely to this transitory world, is done in vain. It has no eternal value. There should be nothing more compelling or that gives us more joy than when we make a place for the Divine Presence to dwell among us, between us, and with us!
Our job is to create the space and invite the Presence in. We are not, and never will be, however, in charge of anything. The Spirit of Hashem moves in ways we cannot understand or control.
“Do not be vexed by evil men; do not be incensed by wrongdoers; for they soon wither like grass, like verdure (vegetation) fade away. Trust in Hashem and do good, abide in the land and remain loyal. Seek the favor of Hashem, and He will grant you the desires of your heart. Leave all to Hashem; trust in Him; He will do it. He will cause your vindication to shine forth like the light, the justice of your case, like the noonday sun. Be patient and wait for Hashem, do not be vexed by the prospering man who carries out his schemes. Give up anger, abandon fury, do not be vexed; it can only do harm.” (Tehillim 37:1-8)
“The end of this sidra states “va’yichal Moshe es ha’melacha” – “Moshe finished all of the work”. The gematria of this phrase is 913. In the world of gematria, this is a very famous number as it is the gematria of the first word in the Torah, which is ‘Bereishis’. This teaches us that there is a connection between the creation of the universe and the building of the Mishkan. In fact, the Mishkan was a microcosm of the universe, with all of its specific details regarding its construction and purpose. But how does the building of a Mishkan relate to our lives? The answer is in the term “Ha’melacha” – “the work”. This word (without the letter Hey) can also be found in the Ten Commandments, specifically, in the Mitzvah of Shabbos. The Torah tells us that six days you shall work and on the seventh day you shall do no work. The Torah uses the word “melacha”, whose gematria is 96. Another word with the same gematria is “Tsav” – “command”. Hence, we see a link between the construction of the Mishkan and the observance of Shabbos with the term Melacha. The lesson is that all of our work (whether three thousand years ago or today) during the six days of the week should be directed towards the Sabbath and in following G-D’s commandments.” (E.A. David, Code of the Heart, page 277)
Ladies, we need to be about His business, and we need to keep careful accounts, so that we will be able to give a complete reckoning when the time comes. Whatever we do during our six days of work, we need to make sure it is ultimately directed not only towards the Sabbath, but also done for the sake of Heaven, and has eternal value. This life is our chance to fulfill our purpose and to complete our individual tikkun. I pray we have the wisdom to use our time and resources wisely, so that when the day comes that we must make an accounting, we will hear, “well done, good and faithful servant!”
Be blessed and be a blessing,