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"The Princes brought the shoham stones and the stones for the settings for the Ephod and the Breastplate" (Shemos 35:27).
Rashi brings a question of the Sages: Why were the Princes the first to give their contributions at the consecration of the altar (Bemidbar 7:12), whereas at the building of the Tabernacle they were not the first but the last to contribute? The answer, they say, is that when Moshe asked for contributions to be used for the construction of the Mishkan, the Princes said, "Let the general community contribute all they wish to give and what will then be lacking we shall supply." But when the people gave everything needed in its entirety as it is said (Shemos 36:7), "For the work they had was enough for all the work, to do it, and there was extra," the Princes asked, "What can we now do?" therefore they brought the precious stones. That is why they were the first to contribute at the consecration of the altar. However, because they were tardy at the beginning, the Torah omitted a letter from their title and wrote v'hanesim instead of v'hanesi'im.
My Rebby, shlita, once spoke to us about the importance of zerizus (agility). When one has an opportunity to do a mitzvah, he said, he should be quick to seize it immediately and not put it off for later, no matter what his excuse might be. For we see from here that even the best of intentions is not a valid excuse for tardiness. Imagine if we were making an appeal to build a community synagogue, and someone committed himself to give whatever is lacking after all the contributions come in. In our eyes, he is the greatest benefactor of all. And if the circumstances were that the entire amount was donated by the others and there was nothing left for him to give, we would still consider him a great sponsor who didn't get his opportunity today but surely will some other time.
But the Torah teaches us to look at things differently. For the Princes thought that the people would surely not bring enough for all of the work, and they accepted upon themselves to complete the entire amount that would be lacking. Even so, when the fact of the matter was that there was enough, and even though they did, in fact, give a very notable donation, the precious stones; still the Torah punished them for their tardiness by omitting a letter from their title. This is because, no matter what the reason, one should never put off a mitzvah which comes to his hand.
In the fabulous book, All For the Boss, Ruchama Shain tells that as a child she accompanied her father to invite some prominent Rabbis to be their guests in their home. Rabbi Herman was walking very fast, almost running, and she found it difficult to keep up with him. When she asked him why he couldn't slow down a bit he told her, "Rakoma, when a mitzvah comes your way, you must run to catch it. Otherwise it will escape from you and you will miss the opportunity."
In the Book of Rus, it is related that the daughter-in-law of Naomi left her people and converted to Judaism, in order to remain faithful to her mother-in-law. Naomi wanted to find Rus a suitable husband and sent her to offer herself to their relative, Boaz. Boaz agreed, but said that there was a closer relative who had to be offered the opportunity before him, and so she would have to wait until he spoke to him first. Rus returned home and reported to Naomi who told her, "Sit still, my daughter, until you know how the matter will fall; for the man will not rest, until he settles the matter this day" (Rus 3:18). In other words, Naomi told Rus that Boaz is a zariz who will not put things off until tomorrow but will take care of them this very day.
The Navi goes on to describe the meeting of Boaz and Ploni Almoni, the relative, who refused to marry Rus; and the subsequent marriage of Boaz to her, indeed, on that same day. As a result of this union, King David and all of his descendents, including the Moshiach himself, are the progeny of Boaz and Rus.
The Alter of Kelem points out, however, that Boaz's agility was not just a case of doing things sooner or even better. Chazal tell us that Boaz, who was an elderly man in his eighties, died the very next day! This means that if Boaz had not "run" after the mitzvah that came his way, it would have, indeed, escaped him completely and he would have missed out on the opportunity to be the one to bring all of these great Tzaddikim into the world.
We often say, "Nothing will happen if we do it tomorrow. Why do we have to make the extra effort to finish it today?" Then, something unexpected suddenly happens, like a snow storm, and the office is closed for a week and the deadline is missed. From Rabbi Herman, Boaz, the Nesi'im and our own experiences we should learn that this is a very bad attitude which could have fatal consequences. Let us learn from them to be zerizim and then we will be truly happy in this world and the World-to-Come.
Shema Yisrael Torah Network