The Unpredictable Development of the Tribes of Dan and Binyomin
Bamidbar is known as the chumash of “Pekudim” [the censuses], hence the English name for it – the Book of Numbers. The first census occurs in Parshas Bamidbar and the second occurs in Parshas Pinchas. The first counting took place not long after the exodus from Egypt. The latter counting took place at the end of the forty years of wandering in the wilderness. Virtually all the people counted in the first counting died in the wilderness and did not make it into the Land of Israel. The people that are counted in Parshas Pinchas represent the “new generation” — the people who are about to enter the Land of Israel.
The Chofetz Chaim in his sefer on Chumash points out a very interesting phenomenon. The total count of the Tribe of Benyamin was 45,600. In terms of total population, Benyamin was the fourth smallest tribe. The Tribe of Dan had 64,400 people, making Dan the second most populous tribe. This statistic is striking because Benyamin had 10 sons, while Dan had only one son. Furthermore, the single son that Dan had was severely handicapped. He was deaf.
[In the past, we have mentioned the thought of Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz regarding the incident described in the Medrash of the activism of Chushim son of Dan in killing Eisav, when the latter tried to interfere in the burial of Yaakov in the Mearas haMachpelah. All the other children and grandchildren became accustomed to the audacity of the situation because they saw it develop slowly over time. However, Chushim, who due to his deafness was not aware of what was happening, heard about the audacity all at once and immediately took a club and killed Eisav. This demonstrates, Rav Chaim said, how easy it is to become accustomed to an intolerable situation].
Picture a family gathering at the home of Yaakov Avinu. Yaakov is seated at the head of the table and his sons are seated around the table. Binyomin has ten children! Binyomin’s children are all participating in the Divrei Torah and other discussions taking place at the table. Poor Dan has only one son and he is deaf – unable to participate in any of the discussions. What is going to be with the poor tribe of Dan? How will Chushim ever find a shidduch? How is he ever going to make a living? Dan must be losing sleep at night worrying about what would become of his tribe in the future.
The educated prognosis would surely have been that Dan would be the weakest link in the chain of the tradition of Yaakov Avinu. Binyomin, on the other hand, according to any educated guest would have easily become the greatest of all tribes. And yet what happened? For whatever reason, even with his ten sons, Binyomin had a relatively small tribe and Dan became one of the largest tribes from his single handicapped child.
The Chofetz Chaim uses this as an example to show that one never knows what the future will bring. One can never tell “from whence my help cometh” [Tehillim 121:1]. We never know how life turns out.
As a Rebbe I see the same thing. I’ve been in this business quite a while. Sometimes I assume that the greatest of things will come from a student. Other students cause a teacher to despair: “What will ever become of him?” Invariably, teachers are surprised. A person never knows from whom he will have nachas [satisfaction]. A person never knows who will become what. I’ve seen it time and time again.
The lesson of Dan and Binyamin is that life is long and has many very strange twists and turns to it. We cannot predict the future. A person never knows from where salvation will come.
This week’s write-up is adapted from the hashkafa portion of Rabbi Yissocher Frand’s Commuter Chavrusah Torah Tapes on the weekly Torah portion. The complete list of halachic portions for this parsha from the Commuter Chavrusah Series are:
Tape # 064 – The Yarmulka: At Home and In the Office
Tape # 154 – Writing a Halachically Sanctioned Will
Tape # 201 – Fasting on Tisha B’Av: Is It For Everyone?
Tape # 246 – Hilchos Brachos: Ikar Ve Tofel
Tape # 291 – The Do’s and Don’t of Kashering Keilim
Tape # 336 – Tisha B’Av on Motzoei Shabbos
Tape # 381 – Making A Zecher Le’churban
Tape # 425 – Minhagim of the Three Weeks
Tape # 469 – Tu B’Av
Tape # 513 – Leining on Fast Days and Other Ta’aneisim Issues
Tape # 557 – Disinheriting
Tape # 645 – Women and Bentching
Tape # 688 – A Manicure on Shabbos?
Tape # 732 – Does A Mezuza Need a Door? Tape # 776 – Yayin Mevushal – Does It Exist?
Tape # 821 – Cholent on Sunday of the Nine Days
Tape # 865 – Neckties, Shoelaces, and Tichels: A Knotty Problem
Tape # 909 – Shabbos Shacharis – Hashkama vs Later
Tape # 953 – Tevilas Keilim: My Hosts Haven’t Toveled Their Dishes
Tapes or a complete catalogue can be ordered from the Yad Yechiel Institute, PO Box 511, Owings Mills MD 21117-0511. Call (410) 358-0416 or e-mail [email protected] or visit http://www.yadyechiel.org/ for further information.
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