Parshat Vayakhel-P’kudei (Exodus 35:1-40:38)

And let all among you who are skilled come and make all that the Lord has commanded.”

(Exodus 35:10)

We read two parashot (portions) this week because of the way the Jewish calendar is calculated.  Months are determined by the moon’s cycle, but the year is determined by the sun’s.  Therefore, a Jewish year can have from 50 to 55 weeks.  Since the number of parashot doesn’t change, some years require that certain parashot get “doubled up” on a given Shabbat.

Eleh P’kudei means “these are the records,” and the parasha opens with the world’s first corporate audit.  Moses offers a tally of the all the donated precious materials used in the construction of the mishkan, or Tabernacle.  A midrash (rabbinic interpretation) explains how Moses overhears some Israelites speculating he had “skimmed off the top” (as they would have done) and orders the audit to show them otherwise (Exodus Rabbah 51:1).

This story provides a good example of how Jewish law evolves.  The rabbis determine from Moses’ behavior the principle that a leader of the community should be above any suspicion of personal aggrandizement.  More to the point, they then operationalize the principle by stating communal funds should always be collected by at least two people, and distributed by at least three (Babylonian Talmud, Sanhederin 17b).  P’kudei anticipates the Sarbanes–Oxley Act by thousands of years.

My father (o”h) used to say, in appreciation of donors, “They don’t have to give and they don’t have to give to you.”  P’kudei reminds us it’s not enough to just make the case for giving or to complete the project.  You also must establish a reputation for integrity so as to maintain the trust of the community.

Good Shabbos/Shabbat Shalom,

David

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