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The Accounting

This week’s parshah, P’kudei, is a detailed accounting for all of the components of the Mishkan, the portable Sanctuary constructed by the Jews in the desert. According to the Midrash, some of the people were suspicious of Moses, thinking that he may have misappropriated some of the funds. The Torah, therefore, takes great pains to show that there was no impropriety in the collection and use of the contributions to the Mishkan.

Rabbi Meir Shapiro, a great pre-War Torah scholar, makes an astute observation: When the Jews contributed vast amounts of gold for the construction of the golden calf, we find no record of people complaining that their gold was being misappropriated by the leaders of that effort. However, when the contributions to the Mishkan building fund yielded a magnificent structure, they murmured!

Furthermore, Moses was the most humble and selfless leader. In stark contrast, the makers of the golden calf were rabble-rousers, from the lowest class of society. Yet when they collected enormous amounts of gold for this dubious project, no one seemed to care whether the funds were administered with integrity.

**

When history’s most important project was undertaken (construction of the Mishkan, which concretized the revelation at Mount Sinai) under the leadership of history’s most righteous and holy person (Moses), its holiness was so powerful that there would have been a drastic imbalance in favor of the realm of holiness. If left undiminished, that imbalance would have precluded free choice.

Similarly, immediately after the Torah was given, which introduced G-d’s presence in this physical world in an unprecedented fashion, no human being—certainly not the Jewish people who witnessed the revelation—could possibly do anything contrary to G-d’s will.

To create a balance, G-d allowed for a parallel force of concealment that manifested itself in an irrational attraction to idol worship. The attraction was so magnified and intense that they were able to construct the golden calf just 40 short days after hearing G-d’s explicit command, “Do not have any other gods in My presence.” The unnatural pressure to do just that was a necessary counterweight to the natural pressure to do only that which G-d wanted.

This also explains why some people could have suspected Moses, of all people, of misusing the funds dedicated for the Mishkan. Precisely because these were such profound and spiritually deep experiences, and since Moses was the most G-dly person to have lived, the external opposition had to be powerfully strident.

**

From Sinai onward, we have been accumulating G-dly light and storing it in our souls’ subterranean ocean. The evil of the past has long dissipated, either though repentance or through suffering, with its cathartic power. So, if the good is a vast ocean and the evil a mere trickle, why do we still see so much of evil in today’s world?

The answer is that to offset the imposing surge of internal spiritual energy, there is a need for a corresponding external force. In many ways, the challenge today is greater than any time previously. Our task now is to see these threats to our spiritual existence as false challenges, to recognize that they are not reality. The reality is that the world has become saturated with the G-dly energy generated by millennia of mitzvah observance.

Our task now is to “open our eyes” to see beneath the surface and recognize that Moshiach and Redemption are right before us. Moshiach’s task is not so much to innovate but to inspire and empower us to accept the reality of our personal as well as collective existence.


 

 


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