Do Not Count Your Blessings
"...which were counted at the word of Moshe..."(38:21)
The Midrash quotes a verse from Mishlei "ish emunos verav berachos". This
means, "Due to the trustworthy man, comes an abundance of blessing ."
The Midrash interprets this verse as a reference to Moshe who, because of
his unequaled integrity, was appointed as the treasurer responsible for the
accounting of funds collected to build the Mishkan. The Midrash cites the
verse "bechol baisi ne'emon hu", which means, "In My entire house is he
trustworthy"  as a support.
Why does trustworthiness result in an abundance of blessing? Furthermore,
how can the verse "bechol baisi ne'emon" be cited to ascertain Moshe's
financial integrity, when this verse is referring to the uniqueness of
Moshe's prophecy, and not his financial trustworthiness? Finally, why is
Moshe the only one who is trustworthy for this position?
The Talmud states that blessing only rests on that which is hidden from the
eye. Once something has been counted, its potential for blessing is lost
. The Zohar questions why the accounting of funds does not violate this
Talmudic dictum. The Zohar answers that since it is for a holy purpose,
counting is permitted, as we see in the case of the tithing of animals.
Why does something have to remain hidden to receive blessing, and why does
this not apply if the counting is for a holy purpose?
The Talmud teaches that if a person finds an object without identifying
markings, he is not permitted to keep it, unless he knows that enough time
has elapsed for the person who lost the object to realize that it is
missing. If, however, a person finds money, he is permitted to keep it, for
he can be certain that the owner realizes that it is missing, "since a
person consistently checks his pockets to see that his money is still
there." What is the psychological insight that the Talmud is teaching us
regarding the nature of a person?
Inherent in man's nature is an insecurity regarding his possessions, which
manifests itself in the need to feel ownership over all his possessions
whenever possible. Constantly touching his wallet is an example of man's
need to feel connected to his possessions. In order to cater to this need
with things he cannot constantly touch, man will view them whenever
possible. For those assets which are intangible, such as stocks or bonds,
man continuously counts them. Counting gives a person a strong sense of
The word "beracha" is derived from the word "beraicha" - a reservoir or
source, for blessing means a connection to the source of existence, i.e.
Hashem. If something is connected to its source, it flourishes and grows
abundantly. When man asserts his dominance over an item, he separates it
from its source, and the beracha is lost. Therefore, blessing can only rest
on that which is hidden, that which man has not counted. When counting for
Hashem's sake, the opposite is true; the very act of counting connects the
item back to Hashem. A problem arises when man collects or counts funds,
even if it be for Hashem, and he begins to feel a sense of ownership or
connection to those funds. Moshe was so closely connected to Hashem, that
Hashem Himself attests to his unique level of prophecy as if Moshe is in
Hashem's house. Therefore, Moshe was best suited to be the treasurer
responsible for collecting and counting Bnei Yisroel's donations to the
Mishkan, for his actions directly connected back to Hashem. This is the
explanation of the verse, "Due to the trustworthy man, comes an abundance of
2.Tanchuma Pekudei 3
6.Baba Metzia 21b
"See, Hashem has proclaimed by name Betzalel son of Uri son of Chur, of
the tribe of Yehudah" (35:30)
"These are the accountings of the Mishkan of the Testimony, which were
counted at the word of Moshe..." (38:21)
The Ibn Ezra cites a difficulty posed by Rav Sadiah Gaon: The Torah gives an
account of what was done with the silver and copper donated for the
construction of the Mishkan and its vessels, but no such account is given in
reference to the gold collected.
Perhaps the solution lies in understanding a statement by the Daas Zekainim
in Parshas Terumah. The Torah lists gold, silver, and copper as the three
metals donated for the construction of the Mishkan. The Daas Zekainim
comments that these three alloys represent three levels of charitable
donations. Gold represents the donations of a healthy individual, silver
represents the contributions of someone who is ill, and copper represents
the donations of someone who has already passed on.
When making a charitable donation, there are two factors to be considered:
the impact on the individual giving up his resources and the return on his
investment, i.e. what he hopes to get in return. A person who donates after
death bears no loss in his giving but hopes to accumulate merit to protect
him in the next world. This is the lowest level of donating, and is
represented by the giving of copper. Someone whose giving is spurred by
illness bears a loss of resources, but hopes to see a return on his
investment, i.e. regaining his health. This is the middle level, the giving
of silver. A person who has his health yet donates, bears a loss of funds
and gives without ulterior motives. This is the highest level of donating,
the giving of gold.
People generally tend to attribute to others the very faults they themselves
possess. The Talmud refers to this behavior as "kol haposeil bemumo poseil"
- "One who finds deficiencies in another is transposing his own deficiencies
upon that person." If a person gives with ulterior motives, he will ask
for an account of how his donation was spent. Since he cannot give
altruistically, he assumes that the person collecting from him has a
personal agenda as well. Therefore, he requires a complete account of how
the donation was allocated.
The Torah gives a complete account of the silver and copper donations, for
it was for these donations that the donor required a complete account.
However, since the gold donor's giving was completely altruistic, he had no
doubt that the treasurer's motives were just as pure. Therefore, an account
was not necessary.