This week’s Torah portion, Parashat Naso, mentions the offerings that the Nesiim, the leaders of the tribes of Bnai Yisrael, brought at the time that the Mishkan was being prepared for use. The Nesiim first offered a group gift of oxen and carts to carry the Mishkan. Following the group gift, each leader individually contributed the same gift of utensils and animals, one day at at time for twelve days.
Why did the Nesiim all go in on one gift and then give another gift individually? The Midrash in Numbers Rabbah 12:16 sheds some light on this gift conundrum. The Midrash explains that back in Parashat Vayakhel, when Moshe initially asked Bnai Yisrael to donate their hearts’ desire toward the building of the Mishkan, the Nesiim said to themselves: “Let’s sit back and see what the people bring and we’ll contribute whatever they leave out.” Bnai Yisrael were so dedicated to the fundraising campaign that the Nesiim missed out on this opportunity to contribute. Since they did not have the chance to donate toward the actual construction of the Mishkan, the Nesiim eagerly (and perhaps out of guilt) donated oxen and carts when the Mishkan was complete.
We too may experience missed opportunities in life: from not attending a loved one’s lifecycle event to waiting until the last minute to sign up for a program only to find out that it is sold out. Do we harp on these missed opportunities or do we grow from them? Perhaps we can better support our loved one at another opportunity in his or her life. Maybe we can end up spearheading a program that is similar to the one we missed out on the first time around. It’s never too late to give back to our families and communities.