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The Call for an Audit

Thursday, 15 March, 2012 - 10:00 pm

In the current political cycle the enormous national debt and the deficit our country operates in has continuously been in the headlines. Republicans and Democrats alike agree that borrowing endlessly from the Chinese will not be productive for the United States of America.

At state and local levels as well, budgets are micro-analyzed to save governments and municipalities from financial disarray or collapse.

Activists and politicians on both sides of the aisle promote solving the – necessary or reckless –problem, either by cutting spending or increasing revenue. The outrage is pronounced – again on both sides of the aisle. Too much taxes or too little taxes.

Either way, the demand is that a balance needs to be reached. No one, both sides argue, would run a business with insufficient revenue or superfluous expenditures.

So, is the outrage justified?

***

The second portion of this week’s Parsha doubleheader, Pekudei, opens with the call for an audit. The Jews demanded an accounting of all the donations they had given to construct the Mishkan. Moshe complied, with an independent audit, as the Torah states:

“These are the numbers of the Mishkan, the Mishkan of the Testimony, which were counted at Moses' command; [this was] the work of the Levites under the direction of Ithamar, the son of Aaron the Kohen.”

Ironically, in last week’s Parsha of Ki Tisa, we also find donations of gold. It was not for the House of G-d, but for idolatry. Let’s compare the two: For the Mishkan, a large edifice with many sacred vessels, the Jewish people pressed for careful review.   But when they contributed massive sums of gold and received in return but one golden calf – there was no call for an accounting!

Why did our ancestors only demand accountability for G-d’s dwelling place, but not for the Golden Calf?

***

Herein lies the hypocrisy to which we all are susceptible. When contributing to holiness, we – perhaps justly – count every penny. But when the money is spent on frivolity or sin – no holds barred.

How many of us are careful about spending “just the right amount” to attend a Pesach Seder, purchase a mezuzah or provide Jewish education to our children? But when it’s time for the Disney World vacation or “treating myself out,” suddenly the moral outrage over price gouging and accountability disappears.

Maybe our political debate can teach us a powerful lesson, after all. Human nature mandates that we give an ear.

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