The Gemoro is Sotah (13a) and tells of the strange events of Yakov Ovinu’s funeral in this week’s parsha. Esav attempts to disrupt proceedings and claims that he is entitled to the final burial spot in Meoras HaMachpela. The brothers protest. Naftoli is dispatched back to Egypt to bring proof. The burial is delayed. Chushim the son of Dan asks why there is a hold up. On being told, he is so incensed at the disgrace to his grandfather Yakov, he kills Esav.
How come no one else was bothered by the affront to the honour due to Yakov Ovinu? Why didn’t anyone else feel as strongly as Chushim?
Rav Chaim Shmulevitz zt’l, the Mirrer Rosh Yeshiva, suggests an answer. Our sages tell us that Chushim was deaf. He was therefore oblivious to the burial arguments, and the disgrace to Yakov hit him suddenly. Yakov’s children, however, adapted to the situation and were slowly drawn into the debate – while Yakov’s body was waiting to be buried.
Such are the dangers of becoming used to a situation – the curse of adaptability.
A friend of mine once described the traumatic experiences of his first summer job. He worked for a law firm and had to go to court several times a week to deliver legal documents. These documents would conclude proceedings on behalf of a bank against destitute people who did not keep up with their mortgage payments. In effect, he was the legal arm throwing people out of their homes. Many times, these destitute people showed up in court, sometimes bringing their young children, in a futile attempt to protest and try to stop themselves becoming homeless. I remember my friend saying how traumatic it was for him and then, after a few weeks, he got used to it and soon enough found it a pain when these people bothered him getting on with his job.
On the other hand, adapting to situations can sometimes be positive and even a blessing. Many ask: why was Soroh unable to deal with the news of Akeidas Yitzchok, depite being on a greater level than Avrohom. Again, Rav Chaim Shmulevitz gives an answer. Chazal tell us that when Hashem instructed Avrohom to perform the Akeidah, he broke the news to him gently, slowly helping him to understand what was needed. Soroh, on the other hand, was told the news suddenly and the shock was too much for her to bear.
Klal Yisroel has recently celebrated another siyum of Daf Yomi and many of us watched the amazing scenes at the MetLife stadium and at other locations all over the Jewish world. The completion of the entire Talmud Bavli needs enormous commitment and fortitude. Learning the entire Shas is a mammoth and overwhelming task; yet, with a page a day, one can adapt to this wonderful practice and achieve greatness.
May we all merit to adapt to uplifting and noble practices.
Rabbi J Golker