- In the building of the Mishkan, the Nesiim, Princes or heads of the different tribes, did not participate with everyone else until the very end. They gave the final material needed for the Mishkan, the special stones that were on the Kohen Gadol’s breastplate.
- The Gemara explains that their calculation for why they behaved in this way was since they were leaders they felt that their role should be to ‘pick up the slack’ and fill in anything at the end that the other people aren’t doing.
- Rashi explains that because they were lazy and didn’t participate until the end they were criticized by Hashem.
How can Rashi explain that they were lazy? They weren’t being lazy, they were being responsible in ensuring that the Mishkan gets done!
It is true that someone else who was lazy would also not arrive to help until everything was already done, but as the Gemara explains, that wasn’t the reason for the Nesiim coming late. They came late to take responsibility for the project and make sure all of the pieces were in place.
There are at least two ways to answer this question:
- The way they behaved was wrong: While it is true, like the Gemara says, that the Nesiim had a ‘very good calculation’ for why they SHOULD come late to the building of the Mishkan. However, this great rationality was really just enabling and rationalizing their laziness. It was not really the proper way to behave.
- The way they behaved was correct: However their intentions in why they behaved as they did were wrong. They did have the appropriate calculation that as leaders it is incumbent on them to take responsibility and fill in the gaps, however the reason why they came up with this calculation was because of laziness.
Both ways of answering this question gives us valuable insight and lessons for life.
The way they behaved was wrong:
So often in life we have weaknesses of character which influence us to come up with all sorts of justifications to behave in the wrong way.
How important, therefore, is it for us to perfect our character to ensure that we aren’t ‘’getting in our own way’’ and that our character faults should not impede our proper judgement.
The way they behaved was correct: How many times do we do the right things for the wrong reasons! Behaving in this way strengthens within us improper character defects and will end up leading us astray.
For example- a person can behave in a good way, but only to vault himself over those around him and therefore strengthen his improper character traits of ‘’needing to win’’ and of haughtiness. These improper character traits will come back to bite him.
Wishing you a wonderful Shabbos!
Rabbi Eli Meir Kramer