A friend and colleague sent this note: “Studying the weekly Shabbat Bible chapter, we find ancient anti-corruption lessons for public servants — of all things and what odd timing too. I thought you’d like to know how the FCPA Blog continues a long, long tradition!”
The weekly lesson came from Rabbi Ellen Weinberg Dreyfus of B’nai Yehuda Beth Sholom in Homewood, Illinois. She’s also past-president of the Central Conference of American Rabbis.
Her focus was Exodus 38:21.
That verse introduces, as she said, “a rather tedious repetition of the inventory of all the equipment used in the building and decorating of the Tabernacle, the place of worship for the Israelites during their sojourn in the wilderness after they left Egypt.”
In other words, it’s one of those parts of the Bible most people usually skip, so they can get back to the story.
But Rabbi Dreyfus said,
Why do we need such documents, such boring lists that threaten to put us to sleep? Because careful accounting keeps us honest. Moses felt obliged to give a detailed account of all the riches used for the fashioning of the Tabernacle and its furnishings so that he could satisfy those who might have suspected improper use of the materials.
Accountability — even for Moses. Because everyone is subject to temptation. And no one should be stealing public funds.
Accounting and transparency produce accountability. So simple and powerful.
Rabbi Dreyfus said,
Careful accounting keeps us honest. A tedious inventory is there so that no one suspects that valuables have gone missing. Public officials must earn the public trust by scrupulous honesty and transparent records.”
“The records may sometimes put us to sleep,” Rabbi Dreyfus said.
But she concludes: “There is, indeed, nothing new under the sun. In biblical times or in our own day, the rules are the same: the temptation is the same, the concern over abuse is the same, and the need for accurate records is the same.”
We’ve never heard a better reason for an effective compliance program.
Rabbi Dreyfus’s full lesson is here.
Richard L. Cassin is the publisher and editor of the FCPA Blog. He can be contacted here.