3/04/2008

Transparency

מדרש תנחומא (ורשא) פרשת פקודי סימן ז

אמר משה יודע אני שישראל רוגנים הם הריני עושה להם חשבון מכל מלאכת המשכן, התחיל לעשות חשבון עמהם אלה פקודי המשכן והוא נותן להם חשבון על כל דבר ודבר לזהב ולכסף ולנחשת וכסף פקודי העדה מאת ככר ואלף ושבע מאות ויהי מאת ככר הכסף לצקת ונחשת התנופה שבעים ככר, עם שהוא עושה חשבון והולך על כל דבר ודבר שעשויין כסדר בתוך המשכן שכח אלף ושבע מאות וחמשה ושבעים שקל שעשה מהן ווין לעמודין ולא היו נראין, התחיל עומד תמה ואומר עכשיו ימצאו ידיהם של ישראל עלי לומר שאני נטלתי אותם והוא חוזר לבוא על כל מלאכה ומלאכה, מיד האיר הקב"ה את עיניו ותלה עיניו וראה שהיו עשוין ווין לעמודים, התחיל להשיב להם בקול רם ואת האלף ושבע המאות וחמשה ושבעים עשה ווים לעמודים באותה שעה נתפייסו ישראל, מי גרם לו על ידי שישב ועשה חשבון אלה פקודי המשכן, ולמה עשה חשבון הקב"ה מאמינו שנא' (במדבר יב) בכל ביתי נאמן הוא ומשה נתן חשבון, אלא מפני ששמע ליצני הדור שהיו משיחין אחריו שנאמר והיה כצאת משה וגו' והביטו אחרי משה, ומה היו אומרים ר' יצחק היה דורש לשבח (וכו' כדאיתא לעיל סדר כי תשא סימן כ"ז) וחברו משיבו ריקה אדם שנתמנה על מלאכת המשכן על ככרי כסף ועל ככרי זהב שאין לו חקר ולא משקל ולא מנין מה אתה רוצה שלא יהיה עשיר, כששמע כן אמר חייכם משנגמרה מלאכת המשכן אני נותן להם חשבון כיון שנגמרה אמר להם אלה פקודי המשכן.

“Moshe said: ‘I know that the Israelites are malcontents. Therefore, I will audit the entire construction of the Mishkan’. He began making an accounting: ‘These are the records of the Mishkan’ and he began reporting everything, the gold, silver and bronze, and the silver of the public census 100 kikar of silver and 1700 [shekel]. 100 kikar went to cast…and 70 kikar of bronze for crafting…. He continued reckoning each item in the Mishkan in order, but forgot 1575 shekels from which the hooks on the pillars were fashioned, but which were not generally visible. He stood bewildered and said: ‘Now they will lay their hands on me, saying that I took it’, and he went back to recalculate. Immediately, God opened Moshe’s eyes and showed him that the silver was used in the hooks on the pillars. He began to reply to them, saying: ‘and 1575 were fashioned into pillar hooks’ and the Israelites were immediately appeased. What enabled this? The fact that he sat and made an accounting.

‘These are the records of the Mishkan’ - But why did he make an accounting? Did not God trust him, as it says: ‘He is trusted in all My house’, yet Moshe made an accounting? It’s only because he heard the cynics talking behind his back, as it says ‘And when Moshe left…they looked back at Moshe’. What did they say? R. Yitzhak said that people spoke positively. Then others would chime in: ‘Imbecile! He’s the one who controlled the entire enterprise of the Mishkan – kikarim of gold and silver that were not counted, weighed, or numbered! Wouldn’t you expect that he be rich?’ When Moshe heard this, he said: ‘My word! When the Mishkan is completed, I will make an accounting’, as it says ‘These are the records of the Mishkan.’”

Several years ago, I had a bit of a debate with another rabbi about the meaning of this Midrash. He contended that its message is one of perception and the care that one must take to make sure that his actions are not misinterpreted. I believed – and still believe – that this Midrash is about transparency and the need for meticulous documentation whenever one controls other people’s money.

The issue of perception – which my colleague more or less understood as ‘mar’it ayin’ – is something else. I cannot control how people view my actions, though I should not do anything that looks like the wrong thing to do. Transparency, on the other hand, means not leaving anything to the imagination. All actions are above-board; there are no closed doors or black-boxes behind/inside of which whatever happens is left exclusively to the imagination.

There really are no ‘halakhot’ of transparency, but some areas are suggestive. There’s a halakha that ‘gabba’ei tzedakah’ should present reports of their distributions, though the community has no right to demand it without cause. Furthermore, I believe that the laws of Yichud can be understood as a form of sexual transparency – there is no opportunity for ‘he said, she said’ if there was always an open door or window. More recently, Rabbi Mordechai Torczyner has issued a report of Benevolent Fund expenditures to his community.

Parshat Pekudai is one long laundry list that repeats a lot of the preceding parshiyot. According to this Midrash, the purpose of this repetition is to demonstrate the value of transparency – every last bit of material collected was accounted for and duly reported. Everything was done in accordance with God’s ‘specs’. If we expect transparency from Moshe Rabbeinu for a massive, complicated building project, we can certainly demand it of anyone else.

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