Cantor Eyal Bitton shares a few thoughts on prayer and the parasha of the week.

Building a Tabernacle, Building Trust

2024-03-16 Parashat Pekudei

This week’s Torah reading, Parashat Pekudei, recounts the details surrounding the construction of the Tabernacle, the Mishkan. There is a midrash (a rabbinic tale) in Shemot Raba 51:6 that tells us that when the building of the Tabernacle was completed, Moses gave an accounting of all the material used, but couldn’t figure out where 1757 shekels went. He began to worry that people might believe that he took this money for himself. Then, God made him recall that the money had been used to construct the vavim, the hooks for the columns. At that moment, according to the midrash, all of Israel, not just Moses, was relieved. 

That the people of Israel might distrust Moses sounds preposterous. Could there really be a situation in which they would not trust their great leader? Particularly after everything he had done for them? How can it be that the only way he could gain their trust was by performing this audit and by providing a full accounting? Didn’t his years of service count for anything? Hadn’t he shown time and time again that he was dedicated to his people? That he was selfless? That he was above reproach?

Whatever our positions in our communities, as leaders or as respected members, they are not ones of entitlement. We cannot rest on our laurels. What we did yesterday or the day before, or the year before, surely matters. But our reputations and the trust we create with others is an ongoing responsibility. Many of us already know that while we may gain trust from the members of our community over time, what we do at every moment, what we do in the here and now, will either continue the bond we forge with our community or undermine it completely. 

After the Shma, we are told “Blessed are the ones who attend to Your mitzvot and place Your teaching and words on their hearts.” (In Hebrew: “Ashrei ish she’ishma l’mitzvotecha…”) Note that being blessed is a renewed status based on one’s actions. We are not forever blessed for something we did in the past. We earn that blessing through constant and ongoing action. There’s a relationship. Trust is built over time but it is now that matters most, not the past. 

Let us remember the example of our greatest leader, Moses, and work at every turn to build a healthy and strong relationship built on earned trust with everyone in our community.