Translated by Yehoshua Siskin
1. This week, at the height of widespread wiretapping revelations, I was reminded of one of the famous stories about Rabbi Aharon Yehuda Leib Shteinman, z"l. On one of his trips to Jewish communities in Europe, someone put a tape recorder on a table in front of the rabbi before he began to speak and asked if it would be okay to keep the recorder on throughout the evening. Rabbi Shteinman did not understand why this was an issue since, as he explained with a smile, he always lived as though he was being recorded. As our sages stated: "Know what is above you: an Eye that sees, an Ear that hears, and all your deeds are recorded in a Book." (Pirkei Avot 2:1) The rabbi said that, from this standpoint, there was no problem with another device recording his words.
2. After all the justifiable calls for setting up investigative committees, perhaps this is an opportunity to conduct a similar investigation of ourselves. To think about whether we reveal too much about ourselves so that everyone knows the intimate details of our lives, even without spyware. We need not heed social media's calls to publicize everything about us, all the time, for everyone to see.
This week's Torah portion describes the Mishkan in great detail. The inside is elaborate, including decorative curtains of fine fabric, but the Mishkan itself is covered in simple goatskins.
The Torah here is conveying a message for future generations: blessings only rest upon what is hidden from sight. What happens in private does not need to be publicized in order to have significance. The opposite is true. The Mishkan's inner qualities are concealed, teaching us that it is in the private domain where beauty and holiness reside.