Just had an interesting discussion at our temple about the difference between piety and integrity. It stemmed from the scene in the bible where Moses is commanded, by God, to create a Tabernacle (the place where the 10 commandments and the essence of God might reside). The children of Israel have forded over 29 talents of gold ( about 30 mil in our currency) and are pretty suspicious that Moses hasn’t been skimming some off the top ( does it really mean that. Oh yes it does).
So the big man (sturdy, as the children of Israel observe) makes a public accounting of every single shekel. Oh yes he does. That is the whole section of the torah. The meaning of this part of the torah, according to some rabbis, was to show that many pious people are only visually pious and internally lacking in integrity. I am sure that you have come across such people in all walks of life. There are those whose pious affect makes those who don’t know them, believe that they are good people. The utterances that fall from their mouths are either religious pieties or philosophical platitudes.
It is tough to distinguish these kinds of people from those who are truly imbued with the spirit of humanity. Have you ever wondered by certain people want their contributions to be made public and certain of us who do not? The need for public acclaim far outstrips the reason for giving the donation. There is little doubt in my mind when this occurs, who is the person who has some personal integrity.
Moses tells the children of Israel everything about how the tabernacle is made and gives a what for to those who spoke behind his back. The bible is pretty careful about portraying Moses as a guy who you don’t really want to bother with. In the end you will come out on the short end of the stick. The sad thing is that Moses also comes to a sad ending. Because of his relationship with God, and some things that he might have done better, God refuses to allow him to go to the Promised Land. Now that is a gift to someone who had integrity by the barrel.