Moshe’s Auditors

Parshat Pekudei (Shmot 38:21) begins with the words:

These are the accounts of the Mishkan (Tabernacle), the Mishkan of Testimony that were drawn up by Moshe’s order...

Midrash Tanchuma Pekudei 7 asks the question: Why did Moshe render account? God trusted him as it says in Bamidbar 12:7 “He is trusted in all My house.” Notwithstanding Moshe rendered account! But this was because the scorners of his time gossiped about him…What did they say? They looked at his back and said to one another: What a neck! What legs! Eats of that which is ours and drinks that which is ours! His fellow would reply: Fool! A man who is in charge of the work of the Mishkan, talents of silver, talents of gold, uncounted, unweighed and unencumbered- what else do you expect- that he should be rich! When Moshe heard this, he said: By your lives! As soon as the work of the Mishkan is finished, I will render them an account. As soon as it was finished, he said to them: “These are the accounts of the Mishkan.”

Nehama Leibowitz points out that our Sages showed how B’nai Yisrael dared to find fault with Moshe and how he, nevertheless, took account of their whisperings. From this they wanted us to learn that it was not sufficient for a man to justify his behavior to God but he must “find grace and good favor in the sight of God and man” (Mishlei 3:4).

She adds that the Torah itself explicitly enunciates the same principle in Bamidbar 32:22 “Then you shall be guiltless before God and before Israel.”

The Talmud explains how public servants sought to keep themselves above the slightest suspicion. One example is in Yoma 38a:

The members of the Avtina family were experts in the production of incense, but never did a bride go out of their house perfumed. When they married outside the family, they would stipulate with the bride the she could not perfume herself, so that people would not say: They are perfuming themselves from the production of the incense. They did this to fulfill what is stated “Then you shall be guiltless before God and before Israel.”

Moshe went out of his way to give a detailed account of everything that B’nai Yisrael contributed to the Mishkan so that he would always have a clean slate.

As the elections in Israel approach, may our candidates keep Moshe’s behavior in mind and may they carefully weigh their actions and keep their behavior unblemished both in the way that they are seen by God as well as in the way that they are seen by their fellow person.