Vayechi: Sometimes, It’s Good to Be Deaf

Even after Yaakov died, Esau continued to seek revenge against him for the taking of the birthright, attempting even to sabotage his burial in the Cave of the Patriarchs. The Gemora (Sota, 13) recounts how the children of Yaakov arrived at the cave to bring their father to burial, and behold they found Esau waiting for them there, with some interesting “news”: The remaining burial plot in the cave belongs to me. The stunned sons tried to remind Esau that he sold the spot to Yaakov. After an exchange of words (brought down in the Gemora), it was agreed that Naftali would run to Egypt and bring the document confirming that the burial plot was indeed sold to Yaakov. In the meantime, they waited…

One of those waiting was Hushim, the son of Dan. Hushim was deaf, andtherefore did not hear the discussion that had taken place between thebrothers and Esau. At a certain point, he asked them what is happening. The brothers told him that Esau is delaying the burial, and everyone is waiting for Naftali. Hushim was shocked: “And all the while that Naftali is in Egypt, my grandfather will lie here in dishonor!?” He immediately took a stick in his hand, struck Esau in the head, and killed him. The story concludes with Esau’s eyes falling out of their sockets by the legs of Yaakov, and on this it is written, “Happy is the righteous who saw vengeance, he will wash his palms (of his legs) in the blood of the wicked.”

A question must be asked here: Why of all people, was it the grandson Hushim ben Dan who reacted this way? Why was HE shocked at was happening, and arose to wipe out the reproach? Did not the rest of the sons care about Yaakov’s honor? Where was Yehuda, or the zealots Shimeon and Levy, for example?

From here we learn an awesome lesson which is especially related to matters of national honor and “Kiddush Hashem”. The difference between Hushim ben Dan and the rest of the sons of Yaakov was that Hushim was the only one who was not involved in the negotiations with Esau. Psychologically, the moment you hear out the other party and weigh his point of view, even the most outrageous claim begins to be “understood”. The very discussing of it desensitizes you, and gets you used to the idea.

Without a doubt, if someone were to tell the sons of Yaakov before hand that Esau is waiting for them in the Cave of the Patriarchs to thwart the burial of their father, they would boil over with holy rage, and guarantee that they know how to deal with the situation.

But what happened was that the moment they arrived, Esau stated his case: “It’s mine”. Sure the sons of Yaakov were shocked and angry, but it is human nature not to want to leave an argument or claim unanswered, without an appropriate rebuttal. And so they reminded him that he sold it. Esau immediately countered: I only sold the birthright, not the grave, etc. At this point, too, the brothers know that Esau is wrong, but in any case, he makes an argument which demands some kind of answer. And most important of all: At this stage, the sons of Yaakov find themselves in the heat of a negotiation process. An onlooker from the side can easily get the impression that both sides make reasonable claims. They would certainly have great difficulty realizing that what we have here is a scoundrel whose entire goal is to degrade Yaakov.

In contrast, the deaf Hushim ben Dan cannot hear all the claims. He knows only one thing: “Grandfather is lying here in disrespect!”. Sure, Yaakov’s sons knew exactly what kind of derelict, cheater and murderer Esau was. But because they entered into negotiations with him, they began to think that perhaps he is sincere this time, and said to themselves: all we need to do is to convince him that we are right, and everything will be O.K. But Hushim did not have the opportunity to become “convinced” of the justice of Esau’s wicked and bogus claims, and he did not understand how his brothers allowed this low-life to delay, even for a moment, the burial of Yaakov, the father of our nation. And so he arose and took action!

Sometimes, it is forbidden to negotiate. What’s so bad about it? After all, you are only talking! But no! For even if you know that your “partner” is a liar with evil intentions, you begin to “understand” him and think there might be “something” to what he is saying after all.

Unfortunately, for years we have been exposed to the lies and falsehood of our enemies. Recently, even those faithful to Eretz Yisrael are beginning to “adjust to the realities”. We have grown used to things that would never have entered our minds only a few years ago. G-d forbid! Let us be zealous for truth, and not have inferiority complexes when facing false claims from the lowest of peoples. We are right! It is our land, and no foreign nation shall dwell in it!

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