web analytics
October 1, 2014 / 7 Tishri, 5775
At a Glance
Judaism
Sponsored Post
Meir Panim with Soldiers 5774 Roundup: Year of Relief and Service for Israel’s Needy

Meir Panim implements programs that serve Israel’s neediest populations with respect and dignity. Meir Panim also coordinated care packages for families in the South during the Gaza War.



Home » Judaism » Parsha »

Parshat Pikudei

Hertzberg-022814-Chaos

General Martin Dempsey is the current Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the nation’s senior military officer and advisor to the president of the United States. Business consultant Ori Brafman in his book, The Chaos Imperative (2013), describes Dempsey as a very friendly and thoughtful person, well versed in English literature and the classics (p.1). Brafman, whose background is anything but military, was invited by Dempsey (prior to his assuming the chairmanship) to discuss ways of reenergizing the military bureaucracy. Brafman was quite impressed with the man he met.

In their initial meeting a wooden rectangular box, the size of a shoebox, on Dempsey’s table caught Brafman’s attention. Curious as to the nature of the box and its contents, Brafman asked Dempsey about it. Dempsey then proceeded to open the box and pull out what looked like a pile of baseball cards. However, instead of a picture of an athlete on each card there was a picture of a young man in uniform. Dempsey explained that these cards were “all the soldiers who died in action under my command” (p.4). Inscribed on the outside of the box was a simple three-word inscription: Make It Matter.

Dempsey was known for caring for his troops and every death weighed heavily on him. Unfortunately, a reality of war is that young soldiers die. While Dempsey did all he could to minimize casualties during the battles he commanded, his units inevitably suffered casualties. Thus the box. Dempsey wanted a daily visible reminder of his soldiers’ sacrifices so that he could do all within his power to ensure their deaths were not in vain. In this regard he kept a permanent account of the costs of war – costs that he would need to be cognizant of as the senior military advisor to the president.Hertzberg-022814-Duty

In a similar vein, former secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, in his recently published memoir, Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary At War (2014), underscores how he viewed taking care of the troops as his primary mission, and doing all that he could to minimize their casualties. To this end he also remained forever aware of the cost of war. In a very moving story, Gates relates how one evening while eating dinner in his hotel during his confirmation hearings, a woman came up to him and asked if he was Mr. Gates, the new secretary of defense. After he answered in the affirmative she congratulated him and then told him with tears in her eyes, “I have two sons in Iraq. For G-d’s sake, please bring them home alive” (p.12). According to Gates, it was at that moment that the wars became very real for him. It was now his job to win the wars and bring home alive as many soldiers as possible.

Like Dempsey and Gates, leaders must always be cognizant of the costs involved in their decisions – even when the costs are less than human life. Only by so doing can they ensure that their decisions are executed in an efficient and cost-effective manner. Decisions that escape cost oversight and evaluation, might ultimately lead to failure even if they initially seem successful. I believe this is why Moshe felt it critical to provide an accounting of the Mishkan’s expenditures at the beginning of this week’s parsha.

Classic commentators explain that Moshe’s motivation was to dispel any notion in the minds of people that a single donation was misappropriated. The Midrash points out that the scoffers, the Eirav Rav, were casting aspersions on Moshe’s character claiming that he became wealthy by embezzling the Temple funds. By presenting an exact accounting of every expense Moshe clearly demonstrated that he was beyond reproach.

(As an aside, Chazal point out that we derive a very interesting insight into human nature from this episode. When it came to the Golden Calf, despite the fact that only a little calf was produced from all the gold collected, nobody questioned where the money went. However, when it came to the Mishkan, despite the fact that a large edifice was erected, with many vessels, people demanded an accounting – down to the last penny. This phenomenon clearly demonstrates that when it comes to bad things people don’t question. However, when it comes to mitzvot, people suddenly need to know every detail.

Rav Zalman Sorotskin in his commentary Oznaim LaTorah puts a positive slant on this notion. When it comes to supporting an ignoble cause, people don’t want an accounting as they can assuage their conscience by thinking that their money may just be sitting in the bank or going to something insignificant.  But when it comes to a noble cause, people want to be assured that they too have a part in the mitzvah.

Rav Moshe Feinstein ztl posits that Moshe is teaching us the importance of making an accounting of how we use everything G-d gives us, not just the donations to the Mishkan. The Torah is not simply describing to us something Moshe did as a one-time expedient, but rather it is instructing us in what to do with everything we have and everything we do. We must constantly ask ourselves whether we are using our possessions, our knowledge and our talents for good and for the furtherance of Torah, or G-d forbid for the opposite. Only by making constant accountings can we be certain that we are doing the right thing in the right way.

In this sense, like General Dempsey, leaders must have their own boxes where they keep track of the costs involved in what they do. They must continuously bear in mind the costs of their decisions and make sure that their decisions are worth the costs. Only by doing so will they be able to make it matter. Perhaps the underlying lesson of Parshat Pikudei is that the real targeted audience of such accountings is not a leader’s followers but the leader himself.

About the Author: Rabbi Dr. David Hertzberg is the principal of the Yeshivah of Flatbush Middle Division and is an adjunct assistant professor of History at Touro College.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “Parshat Pikudei

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Abu Usamah Somali, thought to be Farah Mohammed Shirdon of Calgary, Alberta in Canada.
Canadian ISIS Fighter Threatens to Behead Netanyahu [video]
Latest Judaism Stories

On Sunday, Jews will be refraining from food and drink from dawn until sunset to commemorate the Fast of Gedaliah. Following Nebuchadnetzar’s destruction of the First Temple and exile of most of the Jews, the Babylonians appointed Gedaliah ben Achikaam as governor of Judea. Under Gedaliah’s leadership, Judea and the survivors began to recover. On […]

On the beach

As we enter the Days of Awe, we must recognize that it is a joy to honor and serve true royalty.

Rabbi Avi Weiss

On Rosh Hashanah we are taught that true self-analysis involves the breaking down of walls

PTI-092614-Shofar

When we hear the words “Rosh Hashana is coming” it really means Hashem Himself is coming!

Who am I? What are the most important things in my life? What do I want to be remembered for? If, as a purely hypothetical exercise, I were to imagine reading my own obituary, what would I want it to say? These are the questions Rosh Hashanah urges us to ask ourselves. As we pray […]

We recently marked the thirteenth anniversary of 9/11 – that terrible day when the symbols of man’s power and achievement crumbled before our eyes and disappeared in fire and smoke. For a very brief moment we lost our smugness. Our confidence was shaken. Many of us actually searched our ways. Some of us even learned […]

Why am I getting so agitated? And look how we’re treating each other!

While women are exempt from actually learning Torah, they are obligated in a different aspect of the mitzvah.

Question: I recently loaned money to a friend who has been able to repay only part of it. This was an interest-free loan. We exchanged a signed IOU, not a proper shtar with witnesses, since I have always trusted her integrity and only wanted a document that confirms what was loaned and what was repaid. Now that shemittah is approaching, what should I do? Should I forgive the loan? And if my friend is not able to repay it, may I deduct the unpaid money from my ma’aser requirement?

Name Withheld

We must eat, sleep, work, and care for our dependants. How much time is left over after all that?

Once we recognize that our separation from God is our fault, how do we repair it?

Chatzitzah And Its Applications
‘Greater Stringency Applies To Hallowed Things…’
(Chagiga 20b-21a)

To choose life, you must examine your actions in the period preceding the Days of Awe as an unbiased stranger, and render your decision.

Rabbi Dayan took a challah and some cooked eggs. He then called over his 15-year-old son, Aharon. “Could you please ask your friend Chaim from next door to come over and help me with the eruv tavshilin?”

This world has its purpose; it has been ideally fashioned to allow man to grow.

More Articles from Rabbi David Hertzberg
Hertzberg-092614

Perhaps the most important leadership lesson Elkana taught us is to never underestimate the difference a single person can make.

Parsha-Perspectives-logo

Eisenhower understood that motivated men will fight much harder and longer than unmotivated men.

When Germany invaded neutral Belgium on August 4, England declared war on Germany. Thus, by the end of the first week of August all the major powers of Europe were at war.

Although famous for his smile, Ike Eisenhower actually harbored a volcanic temper that he worked arduously to control.

Why did we merit exiting the gas chamber alive when so many others did not?

Without a plan of action, a leader will never be able to lead his followers anywhere, no matter how important the destination or lofty the goal.

Like Dempsey and Gates, leaders must always be cognizant of the costs involved in their decisions – even when the costs are less than human life

G-d, accordingly, is encouraging Moshe to not just focus on reaching the top of the spiritual mountain but remaining there as well, thus fully capitalizing on his gains.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/parsha/parshat-pikudei/2014/02/28/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: