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    Audits & accounts – P’kudei

    Depiction of the Tabernacle from the Foster Bible Pictures, 1897

    The sidra commences, “These are the accounts of the tabernacle, the tabernacle of testimony” (Ex. 35:21).

    The first half of the sentence is clarified if we change “tabernacle” to “synagogue”. “These are the shule accounts” is the almost unvarying introduction to the financial report at any synagogue annual meeting.

    Then there will be questions, complaints and criticisms: Did we bring in enough income? Did we spend too much? Can we cut back on staff?

    In Biblical times Moses had to keep his cool when the tabernacle accounts came under carping scrutiny, but he was used to the people’s complaints and presumably maintained his equanimity.

    The story takes on a different dimension, however, when we come to the phrase, “the tabernacle of testimony”. According to Malbim, this shows that it was not only or even mainly the people who scrutinised the accounts; the tabernacle itself had something to say.

    If it suspected that anything untoward had taken place, it would voice its own complaint. Not just out of self-respect, but because if even a hint of impropriety had occurred the Divine Presence would not enter and it would not be a tabernacle at all.

    Maybe the modern synagogue has a similar right to cry out in pain if its congregation and leaders have done anything to besmirch their sanctuary and hinder the Sh’chinah from coming in.

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