Behaalotcha: Returning Lost Souls

“Then, the standard of the camp of the sons of Dan set out, the rear guard for all the camps, each according to their troops….”[1] (וְנָסַע דֶּגֶל מַחֲנֵה בְנֵי דָן מְאַסֵּף לְכָל הַמַּחֲנֹת לְצִבְאֹתָם).

Rashi explains, “Because the tribe of Dan was abundantly populated, it would travel at the rear, and everyone who had lost something, they would return it to him.” The Chizkuni explains that the tribe of Dan would also take care of people who had gotten lost, returning them to their proper place.

From the perspective of the Torah’s inner dimension, the tribe of Dan not only helps those who have lost their way physically, but also those who have lost their way spiritually. These are the individuals who in the war with Amalek were were attacked first, “Remember what Amalek did to you… he cut down all the stragglers in your rear.”[2] Thus, the words, “each according to its troops” (מְאַסֵּף לְכָל הַמַּחֲנֹת לְצִבְאֹתָם) suggest that the stragglers who had lost their spiritual way, were returned to “their troops” (לְצִבְאֹתָם), meaning to their “true nature” (צִבְיוֹנָם).

What is unique about Dan that makes him capable of returning those who are lost? The tribe of Dan represents the simple and earnest Jews, those who have no special pedigree or other lofty attribute. The tribe of Dan is described as, “one of the lowest of the tribes”[3] (מִן הַיְרוּדִין שֶׁבַּשְּׁבָטִים). It is specifically the simple Jews who help those who have lost their way to find a path back to Yiddishkeit. In fact, it is usually those individuals who are wise, talented, and of high pedigree who are liable to falter because of inextricable questions and dilemmas, and eventually leave the straight path of Torah. Until the simple Jew, who walks with simple sincerity and earnestness, without pretense, comes along and returns the bewildered onto the path.

Dan had one son, Chushim. Chushim—whose name literally means “senses,” even though he was deaf and mute—was a simple Jew, an earnestly committed individual, who did not entertain any machinations. He saw things clearly and without complication. One story about him stands out. When the 12 children of Jacob came to bury him in the Cave of the Machpeilah, Esau appeared and claimed that the burial plot belonged to him. The tribes sent Naphtali running back to Egypt to recover the contract which Esau had signed, handing over an additional plot to Jacob. However, Chushim could not understand what was delaying his grandfather’s funeral and used his blade to cut off Esau’s head).[4]

Chushim (חֻשִׁים) is also a permutation of “Mashiach” (מָשִׁיחַ), suggesting that the arrival of Mashiach and the complete redemption depend upon returning all the lost souls of the people of Israel, as stated in the prophets: “And the strayed who are in the land of Assyira… shall return and worship the Lord on the holy mount, in Jerusalem.”[5]

[1]. Numbers 10:25.

[2]. Deuteronomy 25:17-18.

[3]. Rashi on Exodus 35:34.

[4]. Sotah 13a.

[5]. Isaiah 27:13.

 

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