SALT - Sunday, 25 Iyar 5777 - May 21 2017

  • Rav David Silverberg

            In the beginning of Parashat Bamidbar, the Torah lists the names of the tribal leaders appointed to assist Moshe and Aharon in counting Benei Yisrael.  The leader of the tribe of Gad named by the Torah was Elyasaf ben Deuel (1:14), which is also the name mentioned later, in Parashat Naso (7:42), where the Torah describes the special offerings brought by the tribal leaders when the Mishkan was consecrated.  However, elsewhere in Parashat Bamidbar (2:14), in describing the formation of the various tribes during travel and encampment, the Torah refers to the leader of Gad as Elyasaf ben Reuel.  Meaning, the dalet there is replaced by the reish, yielding “Reuel” instead of “Deuel.”

            The Chida, in his Chomat Anakh commentary, cites the Imrei Noam (Parashat Vayetze) as explaining that the name “Deuel” was changed to “Reuel” in order to allude to the phrase “re’a Kel” – “God’s confidant.”  This allusion is a reference to Moshe Rabbenu, the Almighty’s closest “confidant,” so-to-speak, who was buried in the territory of the tribe of Gad (see Rashi to Devarim 33:21).  The Imrei Noam explains that Gad earned this special privilege because this tribe’s members did not protest the arrangement assigned to them in the wilderness.  As we read here in Parashat Bamidbar (chapter 2), the Israelite camp consisted of four groups of three tribes each, with one tribe named the leader of each group.  Gad was assigned to the group led by Reuven, rather than being named a leader of a group.  This tribe could have protested this assignment, as it was the only tribe whose founder was a firstborn of one of Yaakov’s wives but was not named a leader.  Reuven (Leah’s firstborn), Efrayim (the official “firstborn” of Yosef, who was Rachel’s firstborn) and Dan (Bilha’s firstborn) where all named leaders, but Gad, whom we would have expected to be named the fourth leader, was replaced, so-to-speak, by Yehuda.  As such, the tribe of Gad had a legitimate grievance against Moshe for losing its leadership status to Yehuda.  But the tribe members accepted God’s command without complaint, and for this they were rewarded with the special privilege of having Moshe buried in their tribe’s territory.  The Torah alludes to this special privilege in the context of the camp’s arrangement, through which Gad earned this distinction, by changing the name of Gad’s leader from “Elyasaf ben Deuel” to Elyasaf ben Reuel,” indicating that God’s “confidant,” Moshe Rabbenu, was buried in this tribe’s territory.

            Whether or not one accepts this explanation as the actual reason behind the change from “Deuel” to “Reuel,” underlying the Imrei Noam’s insight is a simple, real-life truism: leaders harbor special feelings of affinity for those constituents who avoid petty arguments and complaints.  The Imrei Noam here teaches that Gad’s decision to accept the camp’s arrangement without protest resulted in a special bond between this tribe and Moshe.  A leader is burdened with a wide range of responsibilities in caring for the people under his charge, and it is all but impossible to satisfy each and every individual’s personal preferences and wishes.  It is thus only natural that the leader will feel special affection for those who make his job easier, or at least less difficult, by accepting less-than-ideal circumstances without complaint, by declining to argue and protest even when they have a valid claim.

            The Imrei Noam’s comments remind us to refrain from unnecessary, petty complaints, to accept situations even if they are not precisely to our liking, rather than childishly demanding and insisting upon every preference and every privilege to which we feel – even rightfully – entitled.  Living together with people as a family, as a community, and as a nation means that our individual preferences will not always be met, and this reality must be accepted with humility and maturity, so that we can live together in peace and harmony, without unnecessary and damaging strife.