by Rabbi Yaakov Menken
"And the princes [heads of the tribes] brought the onyx stones, and the
stones to be set for the ephod and the breastplate." (35:27)
Rabbi Shlomo Yitzhoki quotes a Midrash which explains how this came to be.
It seems that the heads of the tribes said, "let the people bring what they
will, and we will make up the difference." But as it turns out, the people
brought everything necessary for construction of the Tabernacle, so these
stones were all that remained. Although what the princes said might have
been a fundraiser's dream, the Torah tells us that the real reason for their
declaration was simply laziness - and as a result the word "Nesi'im",
princes, is written here with a letter missing.
The Chofetz Chaim of Radin contrasts this with the first sacrifices offered
by the same princes, found later in Parshas Naso. There the Torah repeats
again and again what each prince brought to the Temple, even though each and
every sacrifice was exactly the same as the others. All of this, he
explains, is to teach us the great value of working together, and
energetically. When people rush forward to work on behalf of the entire
group - instead of holding themselves above others, or looking out for their
personal interests - then this is valued dearly by G-d, the Torah... and by
others, as well.
Text Copyright © 1995 Rabbi Yaakov Menken and Project Genesis, Inc.
The author is the Director of Project Genesis.