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Harry Cassin
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Jessica Tillipman
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Bill Steinman
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Richard L. Cassin
Editor at Large

Elizabeth K. Spahn
Editor Emeritus

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Contributing Editor

Julie DiMauro
Contributing Editor

Thomas Fox
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Marc Alain Bohn
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Bill Waite
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Shruti J. Shah
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Russell A. Stamets
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Richard Bistrong
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Eric Carlson
Contributing Editor

The Rabbi’s teaching: To fight corruption, look to the ancient paths

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.

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Richard L. Cassin is the publisher and editor of the FCPA Blog. He can be contacted here.

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4 Comments

  1. Oh my! This is my fave! When I get stressed out, wondering what or how to accomplish a new or major assignment, my direction comes from on high, "There's nothing new under the sun." Stick to the old paths. This is so refreshing! Professionals seeking the upper hand should often lay hold to these words, realize, same challenge, different form. Recognizing there is nothing new under the sun can provide a tremendous advantage. Great.

  2. Very interesting linkage on accountability way back in the days of Moses. Read to the end of that chapter and note what seems to be a comprehensive income statement or source and application of funds. Great reference for accountability and transparency.

  3. I would add that in Numbers 16:15 when Moses is trying to disprove Korah's attack on Moses' leadership, Moses states that the attack is baseless because:"I have not taken anyone's donkey and have not harmed any of you". Also Samuel ( Samuel I 12:3-4) in his parting words to the nation when he transfers the leadership to Israel's first King says: "here I am, answer me against g-d and against his anointed whose ox have I taken and whose donkey have I taken who have I swindled who have I favored and from who have I accepted ransom…and they answered you have not swindled us nor favored anyone…"
    This is in addition to the general state in the bible that states "Bribery shall blind the eyes of the righteous…" (All translations are my free translations from the original Hebrew)

  4. Perhaps this helps to explain why there is such vehement opposition to Trinity Western University in Vancouver, Canada (a Christian university) opening an accredited Law School. A lot of people are happy with and have benefited greatly from the status quo. It is best not to hope for too much change. Especially if the change looks back to ancient and timeless wisdom.


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