Back to This Week's Parsha| Previous Issues
by Daneal Weiner
Yoseph has revealed himself to his brothers and asked that they bring their father Yaakov down to Egypt. Yaakov had a tradition from Avraham that they would be strangers in a strange land but when he realized that land would be Egypt, the lowest of the low, he was filled with fear. Hashem speaks to him saying, "Al tirah mairdah Mitsryma"- Don’t fear from going down to Egypt [for I will make you a great nation there]. [Mai]rdah- [from] going down = 209. Don’t fear from 209 years of servitude in Egypt for I will make you a great nation there. The children of Israel were in Egypt 210 years but the last year was when the plagues struck Egypt, the servitude had ended. Hashem further consoles Yaakov saying, "I will go down with you and I shall also surely bring you up."
Yaakov packs up the family and hits the road. The Torah lists the members of the family and in 46:27 concludes, "All the people of Yaakov’s household who came to Egypt were 70." If you count them, however, there are only 69 listed! The Midrash has a number of answers. One is that Hashem, Himself is included in the count as we just saw above.
Another explanation is Yocheved, the Mother of Moshe, was born literally while passing through the thickness of the walls entering Egypt. Hashem always prepares the remedy before the affliction. This time the mother of Moshe was born almost simultaneously with the onset of the affliction. The message here is that the affliction is part and parcel to the remedy. The summation of the 210 years in Egypt is the redemption from Egypt. Similarly we will come to see, one day soon, that the 2000 years in exile was the escalator that elevated us to merit the final redemption.
Yet another answer of the Midrash is that Chushim ben Dan- son of Dan was the one who brought the total to 70. The Torah already listed him in 46:23, "Uvnei Dan Chushim."- And the sons of Dan was Chushim. The Torah’s use of the plural expression, 'sons of,' when there is only one contribues to the opinions there was cause to count him twice. The Midrash continues that the great Tannaic sage, Rebbe Meir wrote in his book of insights on the Torah, "Uven, Dan Chushim."- the son of Dan is Chushim. Singular. He seemingly argues with the opinions that Dan be counted twice by ‘changing’ the language of the verse to the singular.
On the subject of Rebbe Meir, back in Breishis, at the end of the story of the Garden of Eden it says that Hashem dressed Adam and Chava in cloaks of ohr- skin, ohr being spelled ayin-vav-reish. Rebbe Meir in his book of insights wrote that Hashem dressed them in cloaks of ohr- light! (Ohr spelled with an aleph instead of the ayin.) In Rav Wolfson’s inimitable fashion we’ll connect, G-d willing, the cloaks of Adam and Chava with the cloak of Yoseph, by way of its consequence, the decent of the 70 souls of Israel into Egypt.
The Gemorah Sota writes that it was Chushim ben Dan who killed his great uncle, Eisav. It also says he was hard of hearing. The Midrash Pirkei d’Rebbe Eliezer says that Chushim ben Dan was deaf and mute.
As the story goes, the whole family of Israel left Egypt as part of Yaakov’s funeral procession. Just as they arrived at the Ma’aras Hamachpelah Eisav appeared, bringing the procession to a halt. Eisav claimed it was his right to be buried in the cave, not Yaakov’s. The family said he was mistaken and they had the paper to prove it but it was left back in Egypt. Eisav said, "No ticky, no bury!" Naftali, who ran as swift as a deer, headed back to Egypt. In the mean time, all the way at the back of the line a small deaf and disputably mute young man saw this stranger holding up the procession of his righteous and holy grandfather. He took his sword and went to introduce himself to this arrogant unknown by cutting off his head.
This is only the first we hear of Dan being at the back of the line. His tribe held the same position in the procession of the tribes in the desert. His position in the physical realm was a sign of his shortcomings in the spiritual realm.
Yoseph’s withstanding the advances of Potifar’s wife laid a foundation which would protect Israel the 210 years in Egypt. Our own American history taught us the ‘special’ treatment given to slaves. During the entire time Israel was in Egypt not only was there no promiscuity amongst Israel, certainly not with the Egyptians, but even when Egypt openly raised their fists over Israel, and reduced them to slave laborers, there was not a single forced rape against a daughter of Israel! The only regretful event was an Egyptian who tricked a women in the dark of night to think that he was her husband. Her name was Shlomi bas Divri of the tribe of Dan.
Dan is the tribe who was weak in their fear of G-d when they left Egypt and brought out with them the idol, micha. Their lack of fear also resulted in many of their members being left out of the protective Clouds of Glory which surrounded Israel in the desert. That made them vulnerable to attack by the seemingly eternal enemy of G-d and Israel, Amaleik, a descendant of Eisav.
Many times we spoke of the 12 months correlating to the 12 tribes. At times we’ve spoken of a different relationship, the months being divided up amongst Yaakov and Eisav.
is always read just after Chanukah, with the onset of the month of Teves. Teves is one of Eisav’s months. Teves also correlates to the Tribe of Dan. Like Dan’s members who were pray to Eisav, Tevet falls pray to the cold of winter when the lengthy darkness of night reigns over the brief light of day.
The Tribe of Dan, trailing the end of the camp portents to the Jews trailing at the end of time, when the footsteps of the Messiah can be heard approaching, when onset of redemption is moments away. We are definitely a generation weak in our fear of G-d. We are definitely a people caught up in vein service of other "isms" of the world. As spiritual descendants of Dan we are deaf and mute. We don’t hear the wisdom and direction of our Torah leaders. We haven’t the discipline to speak words Torah or stand before G-d in prayer. As King David wrote of such a time, "Save us, Hashem, for the devout one is no more and truthful people have vanished."
As we enter into the dominion of Eisev with only the strength of Dan do not dispair. Because alongside Hashem and along with Yocheved it was also Chushim ben Dan who brought the total to 70. Why 70?
70 represents the 70 nations of the world. 70 represents the cold, darkness which seems to prevail over the Children of Israel these past 2000 years. We entered Egypt with 70 souls to counterbalance the exile amongst the 70 nations which the descent into Egypt represented. Chushim ben Dan brought that total to 70. As weak as he is he yields the final blow that allows Israel to contend with and defeat the 70 nations.
Going back to Rebbe Meir, when Adam and Chava ate from the Tree of Knowledge that set a new course for the world, one that included the Jews in exile amongst the 70 nations. Hashem cloaked Adam and Chava in Ohr- skins, beginning with an ayin which equals 70. Rebbe Meir says don’t think for all eternity we’ll be covered in darkness by the 70 nations. He switches the ayin to an aleph. The skin becomes light. The 70 becomes 1. It’s not the 70 which will prevail but the 1. Its not the darkness of Tevet and the upcoming fast commemorating the fall of Jerusalem which will prevail but the light which Torah and mitsvos bring into the world. A light which Chanukah renewed in us at this most crucial time. Not 70 but 1. Don’t read it "Uvnei Dan Chushim"- And the sons of Dan was Chushim, thinking there was an unannounced brother who made the count. "Uven, Dan Chushim."- There was only one son of Dan and he made the count 70! He led the defeat of Eisav!
The Gemorah Gitin tells of the destruction of Jerusalem. Nero was sent to destroy the holy city. From a distance he shot an arrow towards it and the arrow miraculously traveled the entire distance till Jerusalem itself. He saw that G-d would not intervene with his attempt to destroy Jerusalem. He shot an arrow in the other three directions and they all miraculously turned and reached Jerusalem. Nero knew it was G-d’s will that Jerusalem be destroyed. Wondering if he would be rewarded for carrying out G-d’s will he came across a Jewish child learning and asked what verse he was on. The child read, "I will take revenge against [Eisav’s descendant’s] Edom with My nation, Israel." Nero went AWOL and converted to Judaism. Rebbe Meir descended from Nero. From out of the darkness of Eisav himself came an awesome beacon of Torah.
In the Gemorah Avodah Zarah a Roman was seeking Rebbe Meir to kill him. Rebbe Meir ducked into a treif restaurant. When the Roman entered Rebbe Meir stuck his index finger into a vat of pig fat and raised it putting his middle finger in his mouth. The Roman, too far away to have noticed the switching of the fingers, said to himself the man could not be Rebbe Meir and left. In the Torah the pig is an analogy to Eisav. Although, today the nation of Israel is similarly immersed in the fat of Eisav, the affliction is part and parcel to the salvation.
When Yitschak gave Yaakov the blessing he said, "Hakol kol Yaakov v’hayadayim yiday Eisav"- the voice is the voice of Yaakov but the hands are the hands of Eisav. Tradition says the garment Yaakov donned that he should feel like Eisav was one made of skin which Eisav had stolen from Nimrod. Nimrod had stolen it from descendants of Adam! The exterior was an exterior of 70 but from within came a voice of 1. A kol, like the kol of a shofar, a voice without words.
It was specifically Chushim ben Dan who killed Eisav. The Jews from the back of the line, from the end of time, whose kol had no words. [Perhaps this is why the Gemorah and Midrash dispute as to whether or not Chushim was mute. One may hold a mute can not even utter a sound while the other may hold he had a kol but could not enunciate words.]
Even in this time of weakness, a time of darkness, while immersed in the fat of the nations of the world we are not lost. Just the opposite! We are in prime position. We bring the total to 70! May this be the time that the prophecy of the prophet comes to fruition, that the Fast of the 10th of Teves be transformed from a time of sorrow to a time of celebration. Kein yehe ratsone!
Back to This Week's Parsha| Previous Issues