Thursday, September 11, 2008

Chushim ben Dan...

...did you ever wonder about the famous story of how Esav died? I have, it has always intrigued me. I am always fascinated when we come across what appear to be more “real life” episodes amongst biblical characters.

So picture the scene: The Shevatim and what we can only assume is the entire extended immediate family has come to bury the head of their family...Yaakov Avinu. They are completing a promise sworn upon by Yosef HaTzadik to his father on his death bed. This is sure to be an emotionally charged event, not to mention that it is taking place at the burial site of other key family members. So this is a highly important and meaningful funeral taking place at a highly respected family location.

Into this scene arrives the prodigal brother, Esav. Commotion ensues, arguments flow back and forth, old disputes are rehashed, and emissaries are dispatched to bring documents in hopes of settling the turmoil. While all of this is going on the funeral procession has ground to a halt. What was to have been a holy occasion has turned into anything but.

Now, into this scene steps Chushim ben Dan. To my knowledge we now scant little about this individual other than two things: he is deaf and he puts a quick and definitive end to the situation at hand. Chushim steps forward and simply cuts off the head of Esav.

Finished…end of discussion…on with Grandfather’s levaya.

My question was - how come nobody else took action? From all that we know the Shevatim were many things but timid is not one of them. So why all the hullabaloo with Uncle Esav? Yes, he was a formidable person and I have no doubt that he wasn’t exactly traveling alone, but still one would have to think the Shevatim would have liked their chances. So what happened?

My theory has always been that like any good group of Yidden they got caught up in the argument of things and perhaps lost sight, even if only for a moment, of what they were actually supposed to be doing. That amongst all the talking, the debating, the arguing and the shakla v'tarya the sense of purpose of action was put on hold in the pursuit of proving who was in the right.

That explains why it was left to Chushim ben Dan to act. It was specifically someone who could not hear, who could not be lost in the sea of words. All he saw was that this person was causing trouble during a time when there should have been no reason to do so. Who the hell did this guy think he was to mess around at this time and in this place! He saw a situation were action needed to be taken and he took it. In this instance words only got in the way and it was left to someone who could see beyond that medium to take the necessary steps to get things back on track.

The lesson: Sometimes talk is cheap and worse sometimes it gets in the way of actually doing what someone who is looking in from the outside can see is what obviously needs to be done…even if it may look a little brash to those involved. Sometimes we need only to close our ears and simply open our eyes to know the correct course of ACTION.

Chushim be Dan…deaf to the world and it’s goings on…or so it seemed.


  1. Very interesting analysis. Check out R'Chaim Friedlander on Parshas Vayechi* in the Sifsei Chaim - he says the exact same thing!

    (*I may be wrong on the Parsha...)

  2. Correction to above: I meant R. Chaim Schmulevitz, zt'l...

  3. At The Seaside


    When I was down beside the sea

    A wooden spade they gave to me

    To dig the sandy shore.


    The holes were empty like a cup

    In every hole the sea camp up,

    Till it could come no more.

    -----by age of conan