Managing With Integrity

Rabbi Jonathan Aaron
Associate Rabbi and Director of Education at Temple Emanuel
Parashat Vayakhel-Pekudei:
Exodus 35:1-40:38
Maftir: Exodus 12:1-20
Haftorah: Ezekiel 45:16-46:18

In the paper, on the news, over the internet and within our communities we hear more and more stories about corporate spending, misuse of funds, lack of accountability and secrecy. People are afraid to invest, and even unsure about donating to non-profit organizations, for fear of their hard earned money being mishandled. Moses, in Vayakhel-Pikudei, can be seen as a role model for any of the CEOs, COOs, Presidents, and Executive Directors that are entrusted with the money of the people.

Consider how Moses handles the building of the Tabernacle. First, he lets everyone know exactly what is needed for the building, and what exactly will be built with the gifts of the community, and it should be brought by everyone "whose heart so moves him." A kind of a soft sell, one that includes everyone in the process of giving for this worthy cause. Secondly, after everyone comes forward, and keeps coming, and coming, and coming, Moses is informed that there is enough. Immediately, he lets the community know that they needn't bring anymore... he takes from them only what is needed. Thirdly, after it is all collected, he gives an incredibly detailed record of all the gold, silver, copper, blue, purple, crimson yarns and linens - and lets everyone know what was made from them. Finally, "when Moses saw that they had performed all the tasks - as God had commanded, so they had done - Moses blessed them," and then set up the Tabernacle so that all could see. In that moment, God's presence fills the Tabernacle.

Moses provides no opportunities for anyone to question his motives, or his book-keeping, or his integrity. He asks them to come forward and involves the people, does what he says he's going to do, gives full disclosure, and also provides them with spiritual inspiration. If there was ever a guide to good corporate leadership, it's in these few chapters of Exodus.

There are other descriptions in our tradition of public figures acting in such a way as to remove doubt from their sincerity. The Talmud tells of those who worked in the Temple: the Temple treasury workers wore clothing without pockets to avoid suspicion; the bakers who baked the loaves of bread never gave any to their own children; those who handled the incense never allowed their daughters - even when they were brides - to wear perfume. All of these safeguards were to avoid the possibility of foul play.

It certainly presents us with a challenge in our own endeavors. Perhaps we, too, in the world that makes up our lives, need to make sure that we are above reproach when it comes to handling our affairs, whether personal or professional. If we would but approach our work as if we are making something as blessed as the Tabernacle, or working for something as holy as the Temple in Jerusalem, we may begin to account for ourselves differently. All we need is Moses' example: Involve others in the process, let everyone know exactly what will be done, do what was said would be done, and provide others with spiritual uplift.