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Home » Family Life, Marriage, Pekudi

Pekudei: Relationships

Submitted by on March 2, 2019 – 9:58 pmNo Comment | 1,887 views

All relationships are tricky; spouses, siblings, friends, or colleagues, it doesn’t matter. In the course of all relationships, something occurs to make us question the other’s fidelity. Are they really there for us or are they manipulating the relationship for self-gain?

It can be a friend not showing up or a spouse not offering support when we need them. It can be a colleague taking credit for our work or a sibling doing something to make us hurt. Whatever the offense, our relationships take a hit. We start questioning the other’s integrity, motives, loyalty, and actions.

Before long, we grow suspicious and treat them as we believe they are treating us. When they respond as we responded, the relationship sours. This can be the death knell of relationships. This is why relationships flounder. Throw together pain, suspicion, defensiveness, revenge, ego, and sensitivity in the correct order and in the right mix, and you end up with a deadly cocktail that destroys relationships.

Benefit of the Doubt

Our sages were not wrong when they counseled us to judge others favorably.[1] Things that seem incriminating from one angle, might seem different from a different angle. There might not be a perfectly valid reason for the way we were treated, but it might not be as sinister as we made it out to be.

If my friend refused to pick up my prescription from the pharmacy, when I was sick in bed and unable to move, it doesn’t mean that he doesn’t care for me. It might mean that he was having a rough day and needed to be left alone. That isn’t perfect, but neither is it malicious. If my wife sided with her parents when they insulted me, it doesn’t mean she loves them more than me. It might be that in this instance she really did think I was wrong. It isn’t pretty, but neither is it a betrayal.

We might have a hundred reasons to believe that it was a betrayal, we might have a perfectly logical argument to prove malice, but motive is a tricky thing. We can’t prove motive, all we can do is impute it, and how can we get into another’s mind?

We, our significant others, and our relationships are far healthier when we give them the benefit of the doubt. We, our significant others, and our relationships are far unhealthier when we deny them the benefit of the doubt.

The Missing Silver

When it was time to build the Tabernacle in the desert, Jews donated generously. After the campaign, however, they sought an accounting for how their gifts were spent. Moses prepared an intricate report and tried to account for every penny, but a terrible thing happened. Try as they might, neither Moses nor any of the architects and accountants who worked with him could account for 1750 silver coins. Considering that each Jew gave a half silver coin, this amounted to 3500 Jews, whose donations were unaccounted for.

The grumbles and recriminations began. People began to gossip and to level quiet accusations. Before long, the grumble became a rumble, and then a roar of accusation and recrimination. Moses, who had led them out of Egypt, split the sea, secured forgiveness for the sin of the Golden Calf, and directed the building of the Tabernacle, was now being accused of thievery. This is the nature of our stiff-necked people. When we catch a whiff of wrongdoing, we don’t tolerate it in anyone. Least of all, our leaders.

No one could explain or find the missing silver and the situation was sliding out of control.[2] But suddenly a roar louder than anything heard among the masses, sounded in the camp. Everyone fell silent to listen. They quickly realized that this roar was coming from above; it was the sound of a Divine communication.

The 1750 silver coins were used to fashion hooks for the curtains, declared the heavenly voice.[3]

The people were chastened and hushed. They learned an important lesson—don’t jump to conclusions Even if the evidence is strong, we can only see what is visible to us. Only the tip of the iceberg meets the eye. The vast majority lies under the surface. Woe to those who deny its existence because when the day comes and the rest of the berg is discovered, they will be revealed for the fools they really are.

Where is the Gold

Yet, it is curious that despite the careful accounting of the silver and copper, Moses only accounted for how much gold was collected, but never explained how it was spent. Some argued that Moses did not need to account for the gold because the Torah provided clear instructions for how much gold was to be used on each item in the Tabernacle.[4] But this doesn’t satisfy our curiosity because not every Jew was able to tally those numbers and Moses would have wanted to allay the fears of those who couldn’t.

Others explained that this report was given before the priestly garments were woven and since much gold was used in those garments, it was premature to provide an accounting of the gold. They further explained that the reason Moses didn’t account for the gold at a later date was that after the event with the silver, no one dared to question Moses’ integrity.[5] But this too fails to satisfy our curiosity because the accounting for copper is listed in the Torah after the accounting for the 1750 pieces of silver. If Moses provided an accounting for the copper after the event with the silver, why didn’t he do the same for the gold?

As I ask these questions, I can almost hear the wheels turning in our minds. Did Moses refuse to account for the gold because he had something to hide?

We ask these questions of our politicians all the time. We ask them to publicize their tax returns and if they refuse, we allege that they have something to hide. We pester them and harass them until they either provide a full accounting of their private affairs or suffer the assumption that they are thieves. No one bats an eye at this torturous game. We simply accept it. The longer the silence continues, the more convinced we become that there is something to hide.

If we do this to our politicians when it comes to their private finances, why didn’t the people do this to Moses when it came to the public purse and the gold that he had collected?

The Balance

This is where we come to the crux of the matter. We thought we had all the information that we needed to form conclusions about Moses and the gold. But there was one missing detail. The amount of gold collected was far less than the amount of gold used in the Tabernacle. Only 29 talons of gold were collected, but in the Tabernacle, gold was required for nearly every vessel, not to mention that every beam across eighty cubits of wall space was plated with gold.

Who provided the extra gold? No one knows. But one thing is certain. It is impossible to accuse Moses of stealing gold when more gold was used in the Tabernacle than had been contributed. Moses did not steal any gold. If anything, he might have contributed gold. Perhaps even more than had been collected.[6]

When we have all the details, it is easy to exonerate. So, the next time you are about to incriminate, ask yourself whether you have all the information you need?

[1] Ethics of our Fathers, 1:6.

[2] See Shemot Rabbah, 51:6.

[3] Exodus 38:28. See Rabbenu Bachya ad loc. that it was a heavenly sound.

[4] Rav Saadya Gaon quoted by Ibn Ezra, Exodus 38:24.

[5] Keli Yakar ad loc.

[6] Toras Menachem 5744:2, pp. 146-147.