Parshas Terumah #1
First On Line
“And Hashem spoke to Moshe, saying, speak to the Children of Israel, and they will take [for] Me a donation… And this is the donation that you will take from them: gold, and silver, and copper… and [jewels] for the Ephod and the Choshen” (Shmot 25:1-7).
The Torah lists the materials the Jews in the desert were called upon to donate for the construction of the Mishkan (Tabernacle), from precious metals, fine fabrics and hides, to oil and spices. Last on the list are the jewels for the Ephod and the Choshen.
The Ohr HaChaim (Shmos 25:7) notes that these articles are listed in descending order. Gold and silver, the most valuable items, are first, and spices, the least costly item, are last. There is one exception: the jewels, even more valuable than the gold and silver, are at the very end. Shouldn’t they have topped the list, even before the gold and silver?
One answer suggested by the Ohr HaChaim is that the stones are last because of the story behind this particular donation. The jewels for the Ephod and Choshen were contributed by the Nesiim, the Princes of the Twelve Tribes (Shmos 35:27) – but they arrived a bit late. When Moshe, at Hashem’s command, announced that donations should be made for the Mishkan, the Nesiim decided to wait; they would see what came in and what was missing, and then contribute whatever was still needed. They failed to take one possibility into account: there was an immediate flood of donations, enough for the Mishkan, its sacred Keilim (Vessels), and the Bigdei Kehunah (Priestly Garments). Only two days after Moshe’s announcement, there was nothing left for them to give! The only item still outstanding was the most expensive of all, the jewels for the Ephod and Choshen, and that is what they gave (Bamidbar Rabbah 19:16).
Coming In Last
The Torah is critical of their approach, as evident from the way the word “nesiim” is spelled in the passuk concerning the contribution of the jewels. It lacks the letter yud (נשאם) which would ordinarily be included in the word (נשיאים), indicating a deficiency on their part. The contribution of the Nesiim had monetary value, but lacked the enthusiasm and quick action which would have made their mitzvah “top of the line.” This is why the jewels are last – not first – on the Torah’s list.
The Nesiim learned their lesson and did not repeat their mistake. When the Mishkan was complete, it was time to donate sacrifices for the inauguration of the Mizbeach (Altar). This time, they made sure to be the very first to give.
There are many ways to do mitzvos. We can seek out opportunities, take the initiative, and give a mitzvah our best effort, comparable to the Jews in the desert who hurried to donate their most prized possessions to the Mishkan. Or – we can drag our feet, doing only what we have to, when we really have to. Assuming that we get around to it, in this case too the mitzvah is fulfilled, but it will be counted as last on line.
Question for Discussion:
In many areas in life, we can make the most of opportunities and take the initiative. What is one area where you would like to take the initiative and be “first on line”?Click Here To Respond