When Moshe announced that anyone who wished to contribute anything toward the Mishkan was welcome to do so, there was a mass outpouring of donations. Only the Nesiim decided to wait. “Let everyone bring all they can, and whatever will be missing, we will contribute,” they said. These were bold words said with good intentions. They accepted full responsibility to contribute whatever would still be needed.
Yet, as noble as their words and intentions may have been, they turned out to be the losers. By the time their turn came around, there was nothing left for them to bring for the actual construction of the Mishkan. The only thing they could contribute were the stones of the Eifod and the Choshen. They lost out completely in having a share in the building itself or in the other Keilim. For this reason, they lost the most important letter in their name. The letter Yud, the first letter of Hashem’s name, was removed from the word Nesiim.
The importance of the letter Yud can be found throughout Tanach. Yd was the letter that Moshe added to Hoshua’s name, calling him Yehoshua before he went with the Meraglim into Eretz Yisroel. Moshe also added a Yud to the end of every Shevet’s name. Throughout Divrei Hayomim we find David’s name spelled with an extra Yud, which is a sign of greatness. Yud is also the letter with which Hashem created עולם הבא, the world to come. It is also the letter of life - Chai.
However, when a Yud is missing it is not a good sign at all, especially when a Yud disappears from one’s name. When the Yud was taken out of the word Refidim it indicated that the Jews slackened in their commitment to Torah and Mitzvot. As a result, they were immediately attacked by our archenemy Amalek.
The lesson we can learn from the Nesiim is simple. A mitzvah that is lost can never be regained. Even if we have the best intentions, it is our actions that count most. When a mitzvah comes our way, we must act quickly before someone else grabs it away. Even the slightest delay may cause us to miss out on the opportunity.
- Adapted from a Shiur by Rabbi Eli Teitelbaum, at www.campsci.com/dvar/Vayakhel.htm