An interesting Midrash regarding Parshat BeShalach states that when the Mon initially descended, it was accompanied with precious diamonds. The Gedolim of the nation went ahead and took these diamonds while the rest of the congregation took only the Mon. Why were the leaders only able to take advantage of the riches?
To shed insight onto this question, Rav Frand directs us to an observation from Rav Michel Twerski of Milwaukee who points out the unique economic conditions that existed in the wilderness. For possibly the only time in the history of mankind, every need of a people was met. Food was delivered from the sky, water traveled with them in the form of a traveling well, shelter was found in the Annanei HaKavod, and as Rashi explains, Bnei Yisrael’s clothing never wore out. There was no need for anything other than that which was provided, much less diamonds. Realizing this, the people felt that money served no purpose and as a result, they neglected these diamonds.
However, the great people of Bnei Yisrael knew that there would come an occasion when there would be a Mishkan and Bigdei Kehunah, which would require the contribution of these precious stones. Chazal teach us that what differentiates the masses from the leaders is perspective. A person who only sees what is in front of his nose and considers only his immediate requirements for the day, lacks the foresight to become a leader. The leader, on the other hand, recognizes that although certain things may be unnecessary in the current situation, in the future there may come a time when they will have value.
It is well known that trees do not grow in deserts; yet, Bnei Yisrael still managed to procure a massive amount of wood for the construction of the Mishkan. Where did they obtain the lumber? Chazal credit the existence of the trees to the foresight of Yaakov, explaining that Yaakov planted cedar trees when he first came down to Egypt so that his descendants would be able to cut them down and take them out with them for the purpose of building the Mishkan (Rashi Shemot 25:5, Tanchuma 9). This is the perspective of a great individual, he is not merely caught up in 'today'; he plans for and considers what will be necessary in the future.
This idea of perspective is not merely something that should be left for the “elite” leaders to consider. We, as Am Yisrael, understand that we all are supposed to take initiative and strive to be role models for the rest of the world. With the numerous and major problems constantly threatening us in the world today, it is easy for us to just want to give up. However, we cannot simply rely on our leaders to do all of the work and blame them in times of failure. We must all become leaders. When in a difficult situation we must look at the situation in perspective. The bad experiences that we suffer are our diamonds, and we need to be able to collect them, store them, and learn the valuable lessons that exist within them.