What does FDIC stand for?

Friday, 17 March, 2023 - 3:47 pm


I’m assuming you think that the letters FDIC stand for the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. Or maybe as you’ve been following recent news you decided that it stands for Folly Driven Investment Choices. If you’re the more pessimistic type, you might think it’s a foreboding acronym like Financial Disaster Is Coming. But I’d like to think it’s an acronym that is reminding us to Find Divine Inspiration in Current events.

Whenever there’s a big financial crisis the questions often surround the regulators, were they properly doing their job? How were such risky decisions allowed? Often regulators are too easy on those who they are supposed to regulate. They trust and rely on them more than they should.

Truthfully though, no one should be above oversight. In fact, the Kohen handling the finances in the Temple wouldn’t be allowed to wear a garment with pockets or carry a bag into the Temple treasury so that no one could accuse them of pilfering communal funds. Even Moses was asked to provide an accounting of all the materials that were donated for the construction of the Temple and how they were allocated. 

The accounting that Moses provided is recorded in this week’s Torah portion and underscores the importance of behaving beyond reprove, no matter who one might be. 

But there’s something that to me is even more profound embedded in the textual structure of this week’s Torah portion. We read a double portion of the Torah this week, when two portions are combined and read at one time. The second portion, Pekudei, is the one which discusses the tabernacle donations accounting. In fact, the term Pekudei means “accounts”. 

The portion begins with the Hebrew word, אלה, (eiyleh), “these are”. Elsewhere the commentaries point out that when the verse begins with this word as it appears here, it dismisses the previous discussion and is beginning anew. As opposed to when the Hebrew letter vav is at the beginning of it, ואלה “v’eilah”, meaning “AND these are”, then it is adding to what was previously discussed.

The way this verse is configured implies that the focus is on the coming portion, not the previous. In other words, which accounts are meaningful and significant enough to report? Those that were used to construct the sanctuary. 

Which reminds me of the story of the 19th century philanthropist Sir Moses Montefiore. He was once asked what he was worth. He made a brief calculation and stated a number. The questioner was baffled, “Surely you’re worth much more than that!”

Sir Moses explained, “You didn’t ask how much I own, you asked my worth. What I own now could transfer to another's possession in a matter of minutes. What I’ve given to Tzedakah, to support those in need or to benefit the community, that’s my true worth and can never be taken away.

By configuring the verse as it does, our Torah portion implies that the money we give away is the most significant element of our net worth. Not how much we have invested, as we’ve seen recently that could turn upside down and be lost in no time. Not how much we have in our bank account. Rather how much we’ve given to others.

Perhaps FDIC stands for Funds Donated and Invested in Charity (or maybe that final C stands for Chabad)?

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