In the Quiet of Shabbos
By Rabbi Label Lam
So Yosef went up to bury his father and with him went up all of Pharoah’s
servants, the elders of his house and all the elders of the land of Egypt,
and all of Yosef’s household, his brothers and his father's household…When
they went up with them were chariots and horsemen and it was a very imposing
camp. They came to the threshing place of Atad which is on the other side of
the Jordan, and there they held a very great and imposing eulogy…His sons
carried him into the land of Canaan, and buried him in the field of
Machpela, which Avraham purchased for bought as a burial place, from Ephron
the Hittite, facing Mamre. (Breishis 50:7-13)
Yaakov’s funeral was a huge international event. Ultimately he received the
honor he deserved. However, the Talmud tells us that Yaakov, our father,
faced opposition from a likely source even at the moment of his burial. Who
do you suppose showed up and protested Yaakov’s burial in Kiryas Arbah the
cave of HaMakpela? None other than Essav! We are told all about it and at
great length in Tactate Sota (13A) how Essav persuasively appealed that the
last burial plot right next to Leah, who was at one time considered to be
his intended or destined soul mate belonged to him.
The children of Yaakov, of course countered with arguments of their own
claiming that he had effectively forfeited his plot when he sold the
birthright to his brother Yaakov so many years earlier. Essav contended that
he still was deserving of this part of his inheritance. The children of
Yaakov claimed to be in possession of proof to the contrary but the papers
were in Egypt. So they sent swift footed Naftali who was titled in this
week's portion as, “a gazelle – like messenger, he delivers pleasant
sayings." (Breishis 49:22) While Naftali was hustling back to Egypt to
retrieve the documentation, Yaakov remained unburied.
Now Dan had a son whose name was Chushim. (Chushim –sensory is a euphemism
because he was actually deaf) He was observing all that was going on with
clear eyes, unclouded by all of oratory emanating from Essav mouth.
All he saw was that his holy and well-respected grandfather was being openly
denigrated while this fellow Essav was holding sway over his listening
audience with his theatrics. Chushim was not influenced by Esau's words and
legalistic jargon. He saw the truth in all its raw reality, and therefore he
took action. The Talmud tells us that he picked up a club and hit Essav in
the head. I'll spare you the rest of the gory details.
How was Chushim able to cut through all the false verbal fat of Essav’s
rhetoric? What was his special talent? The answer is already plain and
obvious. He was deaf! Chushim was like that little boy in the story about
the Emperor and his new clothing who saw the naked unadorned truth with pure
At the risk of editorializing we can observe how around us today a web of
words are woven to cover-up and gain permission for the worst behavior. An
innocent child, if you can find one, can see right through the scheme and
the scan that is taking place right before our eyes. Irresponsible nations
fashion weapons with the vilest intentions while couching them in noble
terms. The most deviant conduct is celebrated as happiness with synonyms of
joy while all mouths are stricken dumb. Many pundits, thinkers, and plain
folk are dazzled by the confusion of conversation while the clouds of chaos
seem too thick to cut.
Boruch Hashem, on Shabbos we can step back from the world and in doing so
willfully make ourselves like Chushim, temporarily deaf to all the sound and
fury that signifies nothing. In that island of sanity our inner ear opens up
and we become sober and possibly innocent again. In one of the Zemiros that
we sing on Friday night it says, “All who thoroughly enjoy Shabbos will
merit great happiness and will be rescued from the birth pangs of Moshiach"
What are these birth pangs? What does the pleasure of Shabbos do to
alleviate that tribulation? It could be that the biggest possible pain is
the feeling of panic that comes from a lack of clarity and so too the
clearest form of relief is found in the quiet of Shabbos.
DvarTorah, Copyright © 2007 by Rabbi Label Lam and Torah.org.