Parashat Pekudei discusses all the intricate details of the construction of the Mishkan. However, before the Torah discusses the process, it discusses the bookkeeping of the Mishkan. Why exactly does the Torah sidetrack here, and what can we learn from it?
Many suggest that this was just a way to show how beloved the Mishkan was. However, Chazal disagree. Chazal say that the accounting serves as a way to document each donation. This would also serve as a way to hold public officials accountable in the future.
Seforno (Shemot 38:24 s.v. Kol HaZahav) suggests that these records were kept to prove that the cost Shlomo HaMelech spent to build the Beit Hamikdash was greater the cost of the Mishkan. The Or HaChaim (ibid. s.v. Kol HaZahav) takes a completely different approach, saying that most things do not receive a Berachah when they are counted; however, because the items counted in this Parashah are from the Mishkan and God dwells there, they are blessed. Normally Hashem is opposed to direct counts, but in this case He is fine with an enumeration, as each material contributed to the Berachot of the Mishkan.
The Midrash states that Moshe Rabbeinu is an active, heroic character in the story of the building of the Mishkan. He previously convinced Hashem to keep us alive after the Cheit Ha’Eigel and give us the instructions to build the Mishkan. He also gave Bnei Yisrael the instructions for the construction of the Mishkan as told to him by Hashem, and even erected it by himself. Moshe’s actions were certainly necessary and commendable, and his role in the construction itself was vital. But why did he specifically request the records of the donations for the Mishkan, read them aloud, and list exactly how much money was spent on each part of the Mishkan?
The Midrash (Shemot Rabbah 51:6) explains that Bnei Yisrael were suspicious that Moshe was stealing their money. It seems strange that the man who spoke with God face to face was being accused of corporate fraud. Moshe was loved by most of the people, and if a few individuals accused him of stealing money, why would we care? Even more so, why would Moshe Rabbeinu go to the trouble of reading out the records just to clear his name?
The Bach in Yoreh Dei’ah derives a Halachah from this: even if a charity collector is trusted by his community, he still should give a transparent report of how every cent was spent. Moshe was obviously trusted by the vast majority of Bnei Yisrael, yet he felt that he had to account for every donation. The main point we can learn from this is that one who is collecting charity should go above and beyond to clear his or her name from even the smallest of suspicions, so that the collector can stay trustworthy and serve their community to the fullest extent.