Parasha Pikudei

Transparency is an extremely important Jewish value. There is a comment on the Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Deah 257 that even though gabba'ei tzedakah (distributors of charity) can be trusted with funds, it is proper that they give a full report of their disbursements (not by name of recipient) just as Moses does at the beginning of our Torah portion, Parashat Pekudei. This value of transparency is much in demand today, and rightly so.

Transparency is an important value, especially regarding questions of financial integrity. This was also why it has been important in being transparent with all of you about both my personal future and the future of the congregation.  However, there is another type of transparency exhibited and then removed toward the end of the parshah. Each of the sacred objects of the Mishkan is described in loving detail, and each object was presumably displayed as the tabernacle was constructed. But slowly these sacred objects disappeared from view as the courtyard walls were erected, and then the tabernacle walls, the screen and finally the parochet formed more layers of coverage. In chapter 40:33 the last human act is "vayitein et masach sha'ar hechatzeir." At that point, God's glory fills the tabernacle, and even Moses cannot enter. What had once been visible to all is now hidden even from the prophet who had spoken to God panim el panim.

What I take from this is that as much as we value transparency-with good reason-there is also a place for opacity and the mystery it engenders. At the very center of the tabernacle and of the soul, there should be some private space for God alone. The gate should be closed sometimes, and we should cherish and nurture that hidden place within.

Our contemporary confessional culture of Facebook and Twitter, in which every insight must be shared with everyone, where people broadcast their every hiccup to everyone, is simply incomprehensible. We must be open and share when germane, and be modest and private when appropriate. This is not a luxury but a necessity. When the gate is closed, it makes our willingness to share deep thoughts far more significant. This is a type of spiritual tzniut that we can learn from the end of Pekudei. Privacy can lead to holiness and intimacy with God, and it can lead us to make our connections with others profound instead of banal.

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Jeffrey Abraham