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"These are the reckonings of the Tabernacle, the Tabernacle of Testimony, which were reckoned at Moshe's bidding" (Shemos 38:21). Most public leaders are very arrogant and resent criticism. They want their subjects to trust them explicitly and believe that they are infallible and beyond reproach. Woe to the person who registers even the slightest doubt as to their integrity. But true Gedolim are different. The Torah teaches us that "You shall be vindicated from Hashem and from Israel" (Bemidbar 32:22). It is not enough for one to be convinced that he is innocent in the Eyes of G-d. He must also strive to prove his virtue in the eyes of his constituents. I once watched a Senate committee hearing probing the conduct of a nursing home owner. During the trial, when things began to look bad, the religious Jew exclaimed, "One G-d in Heaven knows that I am innocent." Unimpressed, the head of the committee replied coolly, "Well, Sir, we are giving you the chance to prove it here on Earth too!" Although Moshe Rabbeinu was "the trustworthy shepherd" who was totally dedicated to his flock and about whom it is written "In My entire house he is the trusted one" (Ibid.12:7), nevertheless, having been entrusted with the contributions of Israel, he gave them a total reckoning of exactly how their donations were used for the erection of the Tabernacle. We are meant to learn from this never to be upset if we are called upon by others to give an accounting of our actions. We should not insist arrogantly that we be trusted but, rather, humbly itemize and explain all that we've done. We should bear no ill feelings towards those who may seem to have questioned our integrity; rather, we should humbly recognize their right to be utterly convinced of our reliability. This rule does not only apply to monetary dealings; it is equally true in all aspects of the Torah. The Chasam Sofer, (Rabbi Moshe Sofer, 1762-1839), Rav of Pressburg, was one of the leading rabbis of his time and his name is a household word amongst knowledgeable Jews to this day. He was a giant in a time of great men. On one of his travels, the Chasam Sofer spent Shabbos at the house of a very simple Jew in Poland. The host was thrilled beyond imagination to have been merited the honor of having the greatest of rabbis in his humble home. Friday night he served the leader of Jewry with honor and humility; displaying his boundless joy whenever he could bring him anything at all.

However, the next day, at the afternoon Shabbos meal, everything changed. The man was visibly cold to his guest and behaved in an almost hostile manner. Whenever he placed food before the Chasam Sofer, he did it in a way which demonstrated his ill feelings for all to see. The Chasam Sofer wondered what he could possibly have done that had irritated his host so much; but could not come up with anything. Finally, in keeping with the teachings of the Torah, he asked the fellow what he had done that had upset him.

The man replied with restrained anger in his voice. "Last night, I thought I was hosting one of the most prominent Rabbis in Israel, and it was the greatest honor for me to do so. But today, I noticed that you sat down to eat the Shabbos meal without making Kiddush! I can only assume, then, that you must be one of the secularists who are trying to destroy our holy Torah by making changes and modernizations. Therefore, I will continue to feed you, as I would to any Jew, but I certainly won't afford you the honors reserved for trustworthy Rabbis of the community."

The Chasam Sofer tried to contemplate how the man had come to the conclusion that he ate the Shabbos meal without Kiddush. Finally he realized what had occurred. On Friday night, the Kiddush consists of three parts: 1) the recital of a chapter of the Torah concerning Shabbos; 2) the blessing over the wine and 3) a blessing over the holy day. While there are varying customs concerning whether or when one should stand during the recital, everyone agrees upon the basic text.

Not so on Shabbos morning. Essentially, all one must do is recite the blessing over a cup of wine before he eats his meal. However, there are various customs whether or what to say besides that. This Polish Jew probably recited several paragraphs before making the prayer over the wine. The Chasam Sofer's custom, on the other hand, was to merely say the blessing. The unlearned Jew did not know that there were varying customs and, seeing his guest do things differently from the way his father had taught him, the "right way"; he assumed that this was some secularist person who was destroying the foundation of tradition handed down from father to son for generations.

Rather than get upset with the simple man who had not deferred to the superior Torah knowledge of the leading halachic authority of his time, the Chasam Sofer was rather pleased with the dedication and the zeal of his host whose love of authentic Torah Judaism knew no bounds. The venerable sage remarked to the students who accompanied him, "If this is the intensity of the commitment of a simple Jew in Poland, then true Torah observance will never falter here but will flourish from generation to generation!"

Chazak, chazak venischazak.

Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Jerusalem, Israel