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Learning to lose graciously just might be the ultimate path to winning big in life!

By Rabbi Ari Enkin, Rabbinic Director, United with Israel

This week’s Torah portion is “Bamidbar” (Numbers 1:1 -4:20) means “in the desert, and it is the first Torah portion in the Book of Numbers. As its name implies, it tells the story of the Jewish people during their 40 years of wandering the desert.

As it’s English name implies, we encounter “numbers” many times throughout this book, particularly in the context of multiple national censuses.

At the opening of our Torah portion, in Numbers chapter 1, we are introduced to the leaders of every tribe. We are told that the name of the leader of the Tribe of Gad is Elyassaf Ben Du’el. But if you look carefully in the next chapter, this same person is referred to as Elyassaf Ben Ru’el. So which is it? Is it “Du’el” or “Ru’el”? Why is his name changed from Numbers chapter 1 to chapter 2? What’s his real name?

The answer can be found in the Midrash. The twelve tribes were divided into four sub-groups (that means each group had three tribes). While camping and traveling in the desert, the Mishkan, the sanctuary, was in the center of the camp while one group of tribes was positioned in the north, one group of tribes in the south, one in the west and one in the east. Each of these four groups had a tribe that served as the de-facto “leading tribe” of that group. In one such group, there was tension between the leader of the tribe of Gad and the leader of the tribe of Dan as to who would be the “leading tribe” for their group. Both were firstborns and both felt that they deserved to be the leader.

In the end, Dan was awarded the honor of being the leader of the group. And do you know what the reaction of Elyassaf and the Gaditites was? Complete acceptance. No whining, no fighting.

The Midrash says that as a result of Elyassaf’s leadership and response, God changed Elyassaf’s name from “Ben Du’el” to “Ben Ru’el”. Ben Ru’el means “a friend of God.” So impressed was God with Elyassaf that he kept quiet and allowed the tribe of Dan to take the lead, that God said that “I want to be associated with such a person!”

So many times in life, we think we’re right and they’re wrong, we think we should get priority not them, we should get the right-of-way and not the other car, and sometimes, it may certainly be true. But Elyassaf teaches us an important lesson: God loves those who back down and let others go ahead. One who concedes and walks away from a dispute will never lose.

Don’t hesitate to give in and walk away (at least sometimes!). It’ll make you a great person–so great that even God will want to be associated with you!

For more insights on the week’s Torah portion, click on the links below: