The dream of any entrepreneur is to discover something new that they can introduce to the world and be ‘First-to-market’. Because they are first, they make a good impression which creates brand recognition and also automatically establishes the industry standard.

In the world of sport too, being the first something creates an impression that lasts forever, even when many others go on to do the same thing, better. A great example is the four-minute mile, which scientific knowledge had perceived to be an insurmountable barrier until Roger Bannister broke it in 1954.

Since then, a new world record has been set 18 times and over 1,663 athletes have broken the barrier and it’s now the standard of professional runners.

This week I heard a very moving story which translates this idea into the world of relationships. A good friend was describing one of his most powerful ‘coincidence’ experiences.

He lost his father and after sitting shiva in Israel he made a commitment to say kaddish every day on his return to London. Problem was, he hadn’t been in a shul in years and he couldn’t follow the siddur. His first day in shul was really difficult but within a few minutes of saying the first kaddish, he felt someone at his side who gently pointed out the pages and guided him through the entire service.

It turned out that not only was he also saying kaddish for his own father but both men had passed away in Israel on the same day. A few weeks later, he travelled back to Israel to be with his family for the shloshim and decided he wanted to go pray at the kosel the western wall in Jerusalem. He described his sudden anxiety of having to say kaddish with all these ‘professionals’ and these very orthodox people praying there. Suddenly, at his side was his kaddish-bussy, his shul-guide his mentor had also travelled to Israel for his father’s shloshim and also amazingly decided to go pray at the kosel at the exact same time!

While the hashgacha pratis here, meaning Hahem’s guiding hand, this is not why I’m sharing the story with you. The main reason is to show you how one man’s kind gesture of being the first to help another, became an act which my friend credits as being the way he managed to grow to be so comfortable in shul and confident with the prayers. Something which lasts to this day.

And this idea is reflected in this week’s parsha when the Torah lists the offering brought by the tribal princes. Although all twelve brought exactly the same things, the text is astoundingly repetitive and repeats the exact same verses twelve times. Except for one tribal leader, the first one to offer – Nachshon ben Aminadav the Prince of the Yehudah who enjoys a special and unique wording.

Why? What was so special about him that he not only offered first but also has his offering recorded differently for eternity?

The chassidic masters explain with a simple and profound answer: because he was the first one to jump into the sea, causing it to split. He was the first person to tangibly, actively and practically devote himself to his relationship with Hashem, to the extent he was prepared to even sacrifice his own life.

Judaism doesn’t demand or require self-sacrifice. On the contrary, it requests we live our lives pleasurably within it. But life and especially relationships often give us unique opportunities to give of ourselves and help others in a very unique way.

Being the first to smile, the first to forgive, the first to say sorry creates a special connection which lasts forever.

(Dedicated for a refua sheleima (complete recovery) for Leib ben Esther Malka, Leah bas Fruma Sarah and Chana bas Rivka and an iluy neshoma (elevation of the soul) of Gidon ben David and Chaim Avraham ben Moshe.)