Kenneth Cohen

Poor Judgement in Leadership

When the accounting is made of all of the Temple donations, the Torah tells us that the heads of the tribes, known as “Nesi’im,” also brought their contribution.

The commentators noticed that the spelling in Hebrew, seemed to be missing the letter, “י.” Instead of spelling it with two “Yud’s,” נשיאים, it was spelled נשאם, with no “י” at all.
This slight change in spelling carried with it a message. The heads of tribes were reprimanded for their role in the massive fund raising drive, to build the Mishkan.
They assumed that their role was to be make sure that the mission would be completed. If there would be any materials or funds that were lacking, they would make sure that everything would be covered. They saw themselves as the guarantors of the project.
Nevertheless, this was considered a bad decision on their part. As leaders of Israel, they needed to take more initiative, and set an example for the masses. They should have been the first to give and not the last.
Their attitude set an example of being passive rather than active. They needed to show how one must observe all of Hashem’s commandments with great enthusiasm and excitement.

There are many books of Mussar, discipline, that emphasize the dangers of laziness and passivity. Great intentions become ruined by the inability to get motivated. People underestimate how damaging laziness can be. Perhaps if there was such a realization of this damage, it would be much more on people’s minds, and they would overcome it.
The heads of tribes used bad judgement in their assessment of the community needs. Growth comes when we learn from our mistakes, and the mistakes of others.

About the Author
Rabbi Cohen has been a Torah instructor at Machon Meir, Jerusalem, for over twenty years while also teaching a Talmud class in the Shtieblach of Old Katamon. Before coming to Israel, he was the founding rabbi of Young Israel of Century City, Los Angeles. He recently published a series of Hebrew language-learning apps, which are available at