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HABIT PUTS YOU TO SLEEPThe Mir Rosh Yeshiva, Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz zt"l, in Koveitz Sichos
So Yoseph went up to bury his father, and all Pharaoh's servants, the elders of his house, and all the elders of the land of Egypt went up with him. (50:7)
When [the funeral procession] arrived at the Cave of Machpelah, Esav came and tried to prevent [the burial there], saying to them… Yaakov] had buried Leah in his portion and what remains belongs to me'. They replied to him, 'You sold it'. He said to them, 'Granted that I sold my birth-right, but did I sell my right as a plain heir!' They replied: 'Yes, for it is written: In my grave which I [Yaakov] have digged for me', and R. Yochanan has said in the name of R. Shimon b. Yehotzadak: The word kirah [dig] means 'sale'… He said to them, 'Produce a document [of sale] for me'. They replied to him, 'The document is in the land of Egypt. Who will go for it? Let Naphtali go, because he is swift as a hind'; for it is written: Naphtali is a hind let loose, he gives goodly words - R. Abahu said: Read not 'goodly words' [imre shefer] but imre sefer [words of a document].
Among those present was Chushim, the son of Dan, who was deaf; he asked them, 'What is happening?' They said to him, '[Esav] is preventing [the burial] until Naphtali returns from the land of Egypt'. He retorted: 'Is my grandfather to lie there in disrespect until Naphtali returns from the land of Egypt!' He took a club and struck [Esav] on the head so that his eyes fell out and rolled to the feet of Yaakov. Yaakov opened his eyes and laughed; and that is what is written: The righteous shall rejoice when he sees the vengeance; he shall wash his feet in the blood of the wicked. (Sota 13a)
This is an amazing passage. Why was it that only Chushim ben Dan was worried about Yaakov Avinu's honor? All of Yaakov's children and grandchildren were also standing there watching the disgrace! And why did the Talmud emphasize the fact that Chushim was deaf?
This Gemara teaches us a remarkable fact about habit. Quite often tragedy comes upon a person as a product of a series of events. The result is now an intolerable and shameful situation. However, since the present situation didn't happen suddenly, but was rather a slow unfolding of unfortunate occurrences, one's sense of clear and honest evaluation becomes dulled. Eventually he comes to terms with a situation which in different circumstances would be absurd to him.
This is what happened to Yaakov's children. They were standing there arguing with Esav. Every time Esav argued with them they found a successful retort which would permit the burial. But as soon as they won, the argument started again. And thus it went from argument to argument, from claim to counter claim, and time dragged on. Yaakov, in the meanwhile was laying there in dishonor, but they became accustomed to the situation, and didn't feel the disgrace.
Chushim however was deaf. He didn't hear any of this. He was oblivious of the argument being waged with Esav. Suddenly he became aware that his grandfather was lying there in disgrace, and he had no inkling of the background. Instinctively he took a club and smacked Esav on the head. Chushim had never become accustomed to the bad situation and so he saw it for what it really was. And before he had a chance to get used to it, he put an end to the whole episode.
We learn from here a powerful insight into human nature. Human beings can become accustomed to anything. Is this always bad? No. Sometimes it's a blessing. People could not live without the ability to adjust. We often find ourselves in terrible situations and cannot imagine how we will survive. But, Baruch Hashem, we learn to adapt and become resilient.
However, there is a terrible downside to this phenomenon. We can become accustomed to anything - to murder, to violence, to all types of corruption. The lesson here is that there are times when a person must say, "I'm not supposed to become accustomed to this. I should always react with disgust and revulsion to certain situations."
This, unfortunately, often happens to us. We find ourselves in a situation saying, "This is terrible. I can't take the office. I can't take the dirt. I can't take the lewd language. I can't take the innuendoes; I can't take any of it!"
Our response should be, "You should always feel like that, because if you become accustomed to it, that is bad." There are some situations in life to which we must always react with disgust. The acceptance of an intolerable situation is itself, the start of the problem.
Rabbi Eliezer Parkoff
Yeshiva Gedolah Medrash Chaim
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