web analytics
July 31, 2015 / 15 Av, 5775
At a Glance
Judaism
Sponsored Post


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.

Current Top Story
Matt Lee of the Associated Press at the State Department press briefing.
ObameDeal Exposed: It’s not ‘Secret’ from Congress but not in Writing
Latest Judaism Stories
Torat-Hakehillah-logo-NEW

By internalizing the Exodus, it is as if we ourselves were redeemed from Egypt.

Neihaus-073115

Each Shabbos we add the tefilla of “Ritzei” to Birchas HaMazon. In it we ask Hashem that on this day of Shabbos He should be pleased with us and save us. What exactly do we want to be saved from? Before we answer this question, let’s talk about this Friday, the 15th of Av. Many […]

Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks

Amongst the greatest disagreements in Judaism is the understanding of the 1st of the 10 Commandments

Daf-Yomi-logo

The Day He Heard
‘One May Seek Revocation Of A Confimation’
(Nedarim 69a)

The director picked up the phone to Rabbi Dayan. “One of our counselors lost his check,” he said. “Do we have to issue a new one or is it his loss?”

Six events occurred on Tu B’Av, the 15th of Av, making it a festive day in the Jewish calendar.

Why would Moshe Rabbeinu have thought that the vow that disallowed him to enter Eretz Yisrael was annulled simply because he was allowed to conquer and enter the land of Sichon and Og?

Question: When a stranger approaches a congregant in shul asking for tzedakah, should the congregant verify that the person’s need is genuine? Furthermore, what constitutes tzedakah? Is a donation to a synagogue, yeshiva, or hospital considered tzedakah?

Zvi Kirschner
(Via E-Mail)

Snow in Jerusalem! For many New Englanders like me, snow pulls at our nostalgic heartstrings like nothing else can.

Man has conflicting wishes and desires. Man has forces pulling him in competing directions.

Perhaps the admonition here is that we should not trivialize the events of the past by saying that they are irrelevant to the modern Jew.

One must view the settlement of Israel in a positive light. Thinking otherwise is a grievous sin.

Reaching a stronger understanding of what Moses actually did to prevent him from entering the land

Anti-Zionism, today’s anti-Semitism, has gone viral, tragically supported globally & by many Jews

More Articles from Rabbi David Hertzberg
Hertzberg-071015

While leadership is always needed, complex situations require it at the highest level.

Hertzberg-061215-running

A truly great leader is someone who not only leads and influences his immediate circle, but the broader world as well.

Though studying Torah is the most important mitzvah, it is performed in private.

Lincoln was not a perfect man. But he rose above his imperfections to do what he thought was right not matter the obstacles.

Before we embark on a major project or make a fateful decision we must get a wide-range of views and perspectives.

The Torah presents us with a model of how to effect change in a sustainable way.

Three years of war and the loss of one-tenth of Britain’s men is not too great a price to pay.

This ability to remain calm under pressure and continue to see the situation clearly is a hallmark of Yehuda’s leadership.

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

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: