Thursday, February 15, 2018

But You'll Never Find Another Honest Man (robert Hunter & Jerry Garcia - "Loser")

We went and visited our eldest daughter. Thankfully she lives in Florida, so our visit coincided with our desire to be somewhere warm and sunny for a few days. During our visit, I received a special treat. I had a chance to watch our daughter at work. She is the Campaign Manager for a women running for the U.S. House of Representatives in a congressional district in Palm Beach Florida. We went to her office and because her brother and sisters needed community service time for school, they spent a few mornings doing volunteer work for their big sister and the campaign. One of the largest components of a campaign is fundraising. I spoke to our daughter and the candidate and asked if there was ever a time when they felt that the campaign could not accept a “campaign donation” from individuals or a Political Action Committee (PAC). Maybe the donor’s beliefs about other issues were totally at odds with the candidate’s positions. Acceptance of the donation would cost the candidate moral integrity and render the candidate as “a flip-flopper” or “pandering”, or without a discernable moral code.  Both our daughter and her candidate explicitly said that they have refused donations when the cost is a sacrifice of personal integrity and moral code. I gave my daughter a look that she has received from me since she was a little girl. She then explained to me that they before they accept a donation, they research the donor in order to make sure that acceptance of the donation doesn’t necessitate a diminishment of or a compromise of integrity. If the research makes a mistake and they find out, our daughter makes sure that the donation is returned right away.
This Shabbat, we read from Parsha Terumah. In it, Moshe has re-ascended the mountain in order to receive the laws, and the blueprint, if you will, for the construction of the Mishkan, the portable tabernacle that will eventually permit B’nai Yisroel to gather, to make offerings to God and to provide a physical dwelling for God. If you are an architect, or if you are an interior decorator, this Parsha goes into tremendous detail about Mishkan’s construction and decoration. Before all the detail are presented for construction and decoration, God commands Moshe to tell B’nai Yisroel that the funding for this vital public works project will come from each individual V’Yikchu Li Terumah Mei’eit Kol Ish Asher Yidvenu Libo Tikechu et Terumati They shall take for me a portion, from every man whose heart motivates him, you shall take my portion (Ex. 25:2). The holiest spot within the community, the most sacred area is based upon each and every individual apportioning a percentage of their assets to the construction of, decoration of, and maintenance of the Mishkan. How incredibly equitable! Everyone is involved and everyone has a stake in the outcome. There were no “dues” per se. Rather, each individual had to look within him/herself and be brutally honest. Each individual would give as they saw fit. 
          This was a sacred moment between the individual and God. The object was not to give due to social pressure but rather for the holiest of reasons. However, such a process requires tremendous honesty. Such a process requires us to be sure that our outside matches our inside. Such a process forces the individual to “mean what you say and say what you mean”. Such a process forces the individual to not only “talk the talk” but walk the walk”. This message is subliminally hinted at when we read about the design of the Aron, the Ark that is to hold the Shnei Luchot Ha’Britthe Two Stone Tablets upon which are written the Ten Commandments. V’Asu Aron Atzei Shitimthey shall make an Ark of acacia wood (Ex.25:10).  V’Tzipitah Oto Zahav Tahor Mibayit U’Michutz T’Tzapenu V’Asita Alav Zeir Zahav Saviv – You shall cover it with pure gold, from within and from without shall you cover it, and you shall make on it a gold crown all around (Ex. 25:11).  It makes sense that the outside of the Ark is covered with gold since that will be viewed by the people. However, what is the reason for lining the arc with pure gold from the inside? Rabeinu Chananel, the 11th century North African Talmudist, comments that this arrangement symbolized the Talmudic dictum that a Torah scholar must be consistent; his inner character must match his public demeanor, his actions must conform to his professed beliefs. However, there is no reason to limit such sentiment to Torah scholars. Kol Ish Asher Yidvenuy Libo Tikechu et Terumati every man whose heart motivates him you shall take my portion. Every man should be motivated to be consistent. Every person’s actions should conform to his/her professed beliefs, and his or her beliefs should be expressed by behavior.
            Every day, we face the struggle to keep the pure gold that exists within our insides the same as the pure gold that exists on the outside. The object is to never tarnish that which lies within nor that which lies without. So we should seize every opportunity to express holiness, whether Mitzvot l’Ben Adam L’Chavero (Mitzvot that pertains between people) or Mitzvot L’Hashem (Mitzvot that pertain to God.  If we neglect those opportunities, we tarnish the most precious aspect: our souls’ purity and holiness. When I asked our daughter why she is so rigorous in checking the donors and demands that her staff must be so rigorous in checking the donors; she smiled and reminded me that her father is a Rabbi, that she grew up in an observant home, and, more than anything, she understood that personal integrity is based upon behaviour both in the home and outside the home. We don’t behave in a manner or associate with those who tarnish our integrity, our code, and our “brand”. That is to say, their insides, match their outsides. She continued to explain that this rigor is one the few ways the voters can determine a candidate’s integrity and authenticity. As I listened to my daughter and watched her work, it became clear that she learned this lesson well.

Rav Yitz

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