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(5738) Rashi (Ex.35:27): "And the leaders of the tribes brought".

Explanation of the presumption of the leaders why they were not the first to contribute for the works of the Mishkan. The reason that the letter Yud specifically, is missing (from the word "Nesiim") and the lesson in the Avodah for each and everyone

R. Noson said: Why did the Nesiim see fit to contribute to the dedication of the altar first whereas for the works of the mishkan they were not the first to contribute? But the Nesiim thought as follows: "Let the public-at-large contribute whatever they will contribute, and whatever will be lacking we will supply." Once the public supplied all that was needed, as it is said: "And the work was sufficient," the Nesiim said, "what is left for us to do?" So "they brought the shoham-stones, etc." It is for this reason that they contributed to the altar dedication first. And since, at first, they were somewhat lax, there is a letter missing, here, from their name and it is written Nesiim (without a Yud after the Alef ).


Rashi comments on the verse1 “The nesi’im , the tribal leaders, brought the sardonyxes and other precious stones…,” and notes the reason why the nesi’im did not donate at the outset for the construction of the Mishkan :

“The nesi’im said, ‘Let the congregation donate that which they wish to donate, and we will make up the rest.’ When they observed that the congregation had completed everything, as the verse states, ‘the labor was sufficient,’ the nesi’im said: ‘What are we to do?’ They then brought the sardonyxes and other precious stones.”

As the commentators explain,2 Rashi’ s comment shows he was aware of a question implied by the text. Since the gifts of the nesi’im are mentioned last, it follows that they were the last to give their gifts. How is it, wonders Rashi , that the nesi’im conducted themselves in this manner? He answers by stating: “The nesi’im said: ‘Let the congregation donate that which they wish to donate….”

What, exactly, is Rashi’ s answer?

Additionally, there seems to be a clear contradiction in Rashi’ s words. In stating “When they observed that the congregation had completed everything” it is obvious that the congregation had brought everything necessary for the labor of the Mishkan. How, then, was it possible that precious stones, oils and perfumed incense — the gifts of the nesi’im — were still lacking?

On the other hand, what were the nesi’im so upset about, and why did they state: “What are we to do?” when in fact they were able to bring so many things necessary for the Mishkan and the priestly vestments?

Also, why did the nesi’im say: “What are we to do ?” — their question should have been “What are we to bring ?”

In stating that the nesi’im brought their gifts last because “The nesi’im said, ‘Let the congregation donate that which they wish to donate and we will make up the rest’ ”, Rashi means to declare the following: The aim of Jewish leaders is to first and foremost see to it that the Jewish people do all that they need to do; only afterwards do the leaders think of themselves.

This is in keeping with which Rashi previously explained on the verse3 “Moshe descended from the mountain to the nation” — “This teaches us that Moshe did not turn aside to tend to his own needs; rather, ‘from the mountain directly to the nation.’ ”

What novelty is there in Moshe’s immediately transmitting G‑d’s message to the Jewish people without first tending to his own needs; one would expect no less from any of G‑d’s messengers, and surely so of Moshe?

However, “Moshe did not turn aside to tend to his own needs” refers not only to his physical needs, but also to his spiritual needs, including the personal preparations necessary for him to receive the Torah.

For as the leader of the Jewish people, Moshe’s foremost desire was to transmit G‑d’s message to them, and see to it that they fulfilled it. Only afterward would he permit himself to think of his own spiritual needs, including his preparations for receiving the Torah.

Here as well, the first concern of the nesi’im was to assure that the Jewish people donated as much as they could to the Mishkan ; only after the Jews concluded their giving would they think of giving themselves. That they were successful in inspiring the nation is to be seen from the fact that indeed “the congregation had completed everything.”

But if the masses had truly “completed everything,” the original question remains: how come there were still so many things that the nesi’im were able to bring?

When the Jewish people donated, “gold, silver, etc.,” for the purpose of constructing the Mishkan , its vessels and the priestly vestments, they found that they were lacking certain of the objects needed, such as the stones and special oil brought by the nesi’im. They therefore donated sufficient money with which to purchase these objects.

This, then, is the meaning of “the congregation had completed everything, as the verse states, ‘the labor was sufficient ,’ ” i.e., even those objects that they lacked were made up for by their giving money with which to purchase them.

Since the money was already there, and it was but necessary to use it to purchase these items, the nesi’im felt that they did not have an equal role in constructing the Mishkan.

They therefore asked, “What are we to do” and not “What are we to bring ,” for in actuality there were indeed objects for them to bring. But since the money for these objects had already been donated, they felt they were not “doing” equally. For the Jewish people gave all that was necessary for the construction of the Mishkan , while the gifts of the nesi’im were not as vital, since the money for them had already been supplied.


Based on Likkutei Sichos , Vol. XVI, pp. 424-430.
1.    Shmos 35:27.
2.    Maskil LeDavid, ibid.
3.    Shmos 19:14.


How could the leaders have put themselves first and donated to the inauguration of the Altar before the people? 

To answer this question, Rashi found it necessary to clarify, at some length, the precise reasoning of the leaders. 
Briefly put, the leaders adopted an approach here which would usually be appropriate. In this precise case, however, it was somewhat miscalculated. They had reasoned that the Jewish people might not donate in a sufficient measure to construct the Tabernacle, and that their role as leaders would be to encourage the people to donate the full amount necessary. 

However, when they saw that, without any assistance, "the community donated everything," they realized that their leadership role (as they had perceived it) had proved redundant, so they exclaimed, "Whal are we to do?" Jn other words, "What is the point of our leadership if the Jewish people's observance is impeccable without us"? 

This prompted them to reconsider what their role should have been in this instance. 

Obviously, the leaders were not "idle" in the literal sense. After all, we are speaking here of saintly individuals (tzadikim) whose example was inspirational throughout Israel. Rather Rashi is suggesting that, in this instance—considering the situation at hand—their actions were devoid of the necessary alacrity. 

It was explained above commentary to verse 5), that the construction of the Tabernacle was an atonement for the Golden Calf. Since the Golden Calf was constructed with a great degree of speed and enthusiasm, it was crucial that the donations to the Tabernacle be given with an equal, if not greater degree of enthusiasm, to ensure that the atonement would be complete. 

The leaders' mistake was that they feared that the Jewish people might not pledge sufficient donations, and that they would be required to inspire them to action. In truth, however, the Jewish people were already inspired, and the leaders' role should have been to inspire the people to give their donations at an even greater pace, with even more enthusiasm. Therefore, despite the fact that a leader usually puts his own interests after that of the people, in this case the leaders should have given first, to set an example Of speedy and enthusiastic donation. 

Thus, in the final analysis, the leaders' motives were noble, but their plan was slightly miscalculated. Therefore, when it came time to donate to the inauguration Of the Altar, they corrected their mistake. (Based on Likutei Sichos vol. 16. 
Gutnik chumash)


It still smacked of laziness: This hint of laziness resulted from a lack of selflessness on the part of the princes. They were a bit too impressed with their position, and this led them to focus exaggeratedly on their princely responsibilities and neglect their own personal responsibilities.

We all must learn from the princes’ error in judgment. We are all “princes” in one sense or another: we all have charges for which we are responsible, beginning with our own body, which God has entrusted to our care, and extending to our family members, our environment, and our sphere of influence.

In our zealousness to assume responsibility for our charges, we must not think that whatever positive influence we can or do have over them is our own accomplishment. Rather, we are merely the channels through which God accomplishes His purposes in creation.

Having removed our own ego from the equation, we can rest assured that we will not fall into the trap of thinking that we fulfill our obligation to God by only influencing others. We will take care not to neglect our own obligations to study God’s Torah and fulfill His commandments punctiliously. In this way we will do our full part in making both our own lives and the lives of others into God’s earthly sanctuary, thereby hastening the restoration of God’s Temple and the advent of the messianic future, when all the world will again be God’s true home.16


16.    Likutei Sichot, vol. 16, pp. 432-433.





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