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לימוד תורה

False information knows no boundaries

Rabbi Eliezer Shenvald – The Parasha in our everyday life- Trumah - Zachor - 5781

Spreading false news (fake news) is a human phenomenon that has accompanied humanity since its dawn. Dissemination of completely false news, or half-truths, is used as a tool by stakeholders, for dark and cynical purposes of various kinds. Sometimes they are deliberately invented, on purpose, to advance agendas, promote and glorify their distributors, or harm their opponents. Out of fear or hope. Sometimes these have morbid, or anarchist perceptions that enjoy seeing human society in chaos and losing its temper. And they are created because there were those who wanted to believe that this was indeed the case (only that reality did not allow this to happen).

False information has no boundaries and no red lines even when it comes to sensitive and sacred matters and even when they can cause heavy damage.

Periods of crisis and uncertainty are the 'big opportunity' for the false news spreaders, who exploit the public's thirst for information.

So, what has changed in the 'false news' field over time? The tools and the extent of the damage. The accessibility of mass media, and social networks that allow false news to resonate, without control, into broad circles.

Parashat Trumah is the first one of a series of Parashot that deal with the construction of the Mishkan. From the Divine commandment, the collection of donations and planning, the construction of the vessels and parts of the Tabernacle to its construction and the Divine presence of G-d. At the center of the Parashot, the people who led the construction of the Mishkan - Moshe and Bezalel. The Torah notes in several places, the absolute conformity and loyalty of the Mishkan builders, to the Divine commandment without any deviation:

וַתֵּ֕כֶל כָּל־עֲבֹדַ֕ת מִשְׁכַּ֖ן אֹ֣הֶל מוֹעֵ֑ד וַֽיַּעֲשׂוּ֙ בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל כְּ֠כֹל אֲשֶׁ֨ר צִוָּ֧ה ה' אֶת־מֹשֶׁ֖ה כֵּ֥ן עָשֽׂוּ

"Thus, was completed all the work of the Tabernacle of the Tent of Meeting. The Israelites did so; just as Hashem had commanded Moshe, so they did". (Shmot 39:32) [Compare to 39:40, 38:22, 40:16].

Because of this, it is necessary to clarify why is it that at the end of the establishment, Moshe Rabbeinu submits a detailed and meticulous report on everything?

אֵלֶּה פְקוּדֵי הַמִּשְׁכָּן. וְלָמָה עָשָׂה עִמָּהֶם חֶשְׁבּוֹן, הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא יִתְבָּרַךְ שְׁמוֹ מַאֲמִינוֹ, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (במדבר יב, ז): לֹא כֵן עַבְדִּי משֶׁה בְּכָל בֵּיתִי נֶאֱמָן הוּא, וְלָמָּה אָמַר לָהֶם משֶׁה בּוֹאוּ וְנַעֲסֹק בַּמִּשְׁכָּן וּנְחַשֵּׁב לִפְנֵיכֶם, אֶלָּא שֶׁשָּׁמַע משֶׁה לֵיצָנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל מְדַבְּרִים מֵאַחֲרָיו, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (שמות לג, ט): וְהָיָה כְּבֹא משֶׁה הָאֹהֱלָה יֵרֵד עַמּוּד הֶעָנָן וְעָמַד פֶּתַח הָאֹהֶל וְדִבֶּר עִם משֶׁה, (שמות לג, ח): וְהִבִּיטוּ אַחֲרֵי משֶׁה, וּמַה הָיוּ אוֹמְרִים, רַבִּי יוֹחָנָן אָמַר אַשְׁרֵי יוֹלַדְתּוֹ שֶׁל זֶה, וּמַה הִיא רוֹאָה בוֹ, כָּל יָמָיו הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא מְדַבֵּר עִמּוֹ, כָּל יָמָיו הוּא מֻשְׁלָם לְהַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא, זֶהוּ: וְהִבִּיטוּ אַחֲרֵי משֶׁה. רַבִּי חָמָא אָמַר הָיוּ אוֹמְרִים חָמֵי קְדַל דִּבְרֵיהּ דְּעַמְרָם, וַחֲבֵרוֹ אוֹמֵר לוֹ אָדָם שֶׁשָּׁלַט עַל מְלֶאכֶת הַמִּשְׁכָּן אֵין אַתָּה מְבַקֵּשׁ שֶׁיְהֵא עָשִׁיר. כְּשֶׁשָּׁמַע משֶׁה כָּךְ אָמַר לָהֶם משֶׁה, חַיֵּיכֶם, נִגְמַר הַמִּשְׁכָּן אֶתֵּן לָכֶם חֶשְׁבּוֹן. אָמַר לָהֶם בּוֹאוּ וְנַעֲשֶׂה חֶשְׁבּוֹן, הֱוֵי: וְאֵלֶּה פְקוּדֵי הַמִּשְׁכָּן.

"'These are the records of the Tabernacle' but why did he make an accounting with them when the Holy One trusted him? He only did the accounting after the work on the Tabernacle was finished. It is so stated 'Not so with My servant Moshe; he is trusted throughout My household'. Yet Moshe said: Come and make an accounting with me. It was simply that Moshe had heard the mockers of Israel speaking behind his back, as stated: 'and it came to pass that when Moshe would go to the tent, the pillar of cloud would descend… and Hashem would speak with Moshe' and it came to pass that when Moshe would go out unto the tent, 'and stare after Moshe'. And what were they saying? Rabbi Yohanan says they were saying in his favor 'Blessed is she who bore this man'. All his days the Holy One speaks with him; all his days he genuinely belongs to the Holy One. 'And stare after Moshe' but R. Hama said: They were saying to his shame: Look at the <fat> neck; look at the <fat> thighs. Moshe is eating from what belongs to Jews and drinking from what belongs to Jews, for everything he possesses comes from the Jews. Then an associate of his would reply: Would you not want a person in charge of the work on the Tabernacle to be wealthy? As soon as Moshe heard that, he said to them: By your life, after the Tabernacle is finished, I am making an accounting with you. Thus, it is stated 'these are the records of the Tabernacle'. (Shmot Rabbah 51:6) "And so, the mockers of Israel were just telling lies to disgrace Moshe. Moshe became wealthy only from the waste remaining from hewing the Tablets of the Covenant (Nedarim 38a), and with all this they would still tell lies, etc. "(Maharal Derech Chaim - I, 10).

The cynicism of the "mockers of Israel", who opposed the leadership of Moshe, knew no bounds. They sought to damage his name and credibility in the eyes of the nation, by spreading false information about his financial situation – it did not come from the 'waste remaining from hewing the Tablets of the Covenant' but from embezzlement of the Mishkan's donations. To accuse Moshe Rabbeinu falsely, the holy man who led the holy project of building the Tabernacle, which Hashem testified to his integrity and trustworthiness! Therefore, Moshe had no choice but to give a report to disprove and refute these allegations.

Even more serious was another rumor spread by Moshe Rabbeinu's opponents:

וישמע משה ויפול על פניו מה שמועה שמע אמר רבי שמואל בר נחמני א"ר יונתן שחשדוהו מאשת איש שנאמר (תהלים קו, טז) ויקנאו למשה במחנה א"ר שמואל בר יצחק מלמד שכל אחד ואחד קנא את אשתו ממשה שנאמר (שמות לג, ז) ומשה יקח את האהל ונטה לו מחוץ למחנה

And Moshe heard, and he fell on his face” (Bamidbar 16:4), the Gemara asks: What report did he hear that elicited that reaction? Rabbi Shmuel bar Naḥmani says that Rabbi Yonatan says: He heard that they suspected him of adultery with a married woman, as it is stated: “And they were jealous of Moshe in the camp” (Psalms 106:16). Rabbi Shmuel bar Yitzḥak says: This teaches that each and every man warned his wife to distance herself from Moshe and not enter into seclusion with him, as it is stated: “And Moshe would take the tent and pitch it outside the camp” (Shmot 33:7). (Sanhedrin 110a)

"It was due to this slander that he withdrew from the camp. He went out of the camp so that he would no longer be suspected" (Rashi ibid).

These rumors of allegedly adultery spread by Moshe Rabbeinu's opponents, forced him to cut himself in isolation outside the camp.

What is it about the Covid-19 vaccines that motivates the "false information" spreaders, the spreaders of half-truths and lies, after more than 5,400 people have already died from it? Why are they scattering confusion and fear among the public and endangering their health?! Is it just the fear of the unknown?!Or other reasons?

There is probably no one single answer to this! And yet these are false news! And it is not a new phenomenon.

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