Knock Your Socks Off
Pekudei (Exodus 38:21-40:38 )
"These are the reckonings of the mishkan, the mishkan of testimony, which were reckoned at Moshe's bidding." (Ex. 38:21)
The mishkan and all its holy vessels were completed. Moshe gave the Jewish People a calculation of how he had used every single ounce of gold, silver and copper which had been contributed. The verse opens, "These are the reckonings..." which implies that this was considered counting, while some other instance of reckoning was not considered a counting.(1) What is this reckoning coming to reject?
The verse is telling us that the only meaningful use of money is for building God's sanctuaries or for other heavenly purposes. Only such investments are eternal; others are transitory.(2) When a person dies, his Torah and mitzvos accompany him and provide him merits in the world to come, but the money which he spent all his life working for will be left behind.
Before dying, Baron Rothschild handed his children two letters. He instructed them to open one immediately following his death, and the second a month later. They opened the first letter and discovered the following message: "My last request is that I should be buried wearing my socks." Even though his children were perplexed by such a request, they still tried to honor it. They fought hard, but the Rabbis would not allow it and buried him without his socks. After the month had passed, his children anxiously opened up the second letter to discover another message: "I know that you did not bury me wearing my socks as I had requested, since it is against Halacha, Jewish Law. You are most probably wondering why, then, did I request it in the first place. My answer to you, my dear children, is to teach you an eternal lesson: a person can spend his life amassing a great amount of possessions and money, but no matter how hard he tries, he cannot even take his socks with him to the next world! Only the money which he used for Torah and mitzvos will accompany him."
1. Wherever it says "ve'eileh" (and these) in the Torah, it adds on to that which has been stated previously. Wherever it says "eileh" - these - as in our verse - it is rejecting that which has been stated previously (Rashi, start of Mishpatim).
2. Ohr Hachaim.