Parsha Halacha

Parshat Parshat Vayigash

Chushim, Son of Dan

The Deaf-Mute Warrior and Progenitor of Moshiach

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The Torah portion of Vayigash lists the descendants of Yaakov who went down to Egypt with him at the behest of Yosef HaTzadik. One of them was Chushim, the son of Dan. Chushim was a mighty warrior who was an only child and was deaf-mute. His offspring became a large tribe and Moshiach will descend from that tribe. This article will focus on the life of this unique person.

Sons of Dan

The verse that introduces us to Chushim states, וּבְנֵי דָ֖ן חֻשִֽׁים, which, translated literally, means, “And the sons of Dan were Chushim.” [1] The commentaries offer several interpretations for the plural “sons,” when only one son is listed. Here are some of those interpretations.

●      One Passed Away

The Ibn Ezra and Chizkuni write that the plural form alludes to another son who passed away after they entered Egypt. His name is not listed as he left no children behind.

●      A Manner of Speech

According to one opinion in the Talmud,[2] the plural form is used as people sometimes refer to one son as “sons.”[3]

●      A Father to Many

Another opinion in the Talmud[4] says that the plural form alludes to the numerous descendants that Chushim (or Dan[5]) would have in the future. When the tribes were counted in the desert, after leaving Egypt, the tribe of Dan, all of whom were descendants of Chushim, were the second largest tribe, numbering 62,700.[6] When they entered the land of Israel they numbered 64,400.[7] The Midrash contrasts this with the tribe of Binyamin who himself had 10 sons, yet the tribe only numbered 35,400[8] when they left Egypt and 45,600[9] upon entering the land of Israel.[10] The name Chushim alludes to this as it means “stalks” i.e., as numerous as stalks of reeds.[11] Some add that his real name was Shucham, as is recorded in Numbers 26:42 and that the name Chushim was used here in order to allude to his many descendants.[12]

●      No Person by the Name of Chushim

The Targum Yonatan translates the word “Chushim” to mean “many.” As such, the verse should be understood to mean simply that Dan had many sons. As he writes “And the sons of Dan were energetic and wise and they were too many to count.” This would also explain how their tribe increased to such a large number by the time they left Egypt (see above). It is not clear as to why these children were not named and counted in the number of 70.

The Missing 70th Person

The Talmud, Midrash and commentaries discuss why the Torah says that Yakov had 70 descendants who went down to Egypt. A simple calculation reveals that there were only 69 descendants. One answer offered by the Midrash[13] is that Chushim counted as two people due to his great importance in being the ancestor of many descendants.

Some question this interpretation since the missing person seems to be a descendant of Leah (as it says she had 33 descendants when only 32 are listed) whereas Dan was a descendant of Bilha whose 7 descendants are listed explicitly.[14]

Rabbi Eliyahu Shik explains[15] that the Torah counts Yakov as the seventieth (and includes him in the largest family, that of Leah) in case Chushim would sin and not merit the blessing of many children. If, however, he would merit to have many descendants then retroactively he would be counted as two people and Yakov would not be included in the count.

Some explain that the Midrash means that Dan had another son who passed away (as quoted above) and that this son was the one who counted as the seventieth person.[16]

Highlights of his Life

Here are some of the memorable events of the life of Chushim as gleaned from the Talmud, Midrash and other commentaries.

●      Birth

The story of the birth of Chushim is recorded, based in an ancient tradition, by Rabbi Rachamim Melamed Cohen (of Shiraz, Iran and Jerusalem, Israel, 1865 – 1932).[17]

When Chushim was born, he was lifeless and without any facial features or distinguishable limbs. That day, his father Dan was sitting in front of his father Yakov, looking depressed. When Yakov asked him about the reason for his sadness, Dan explained that his wife had giving birth to a stillborn who was formless. Yakov asked that the baby be placed on a tablet, covered with a sheet and brought to him. He sensed that the baby’s soul was connected to that of King David who was also destined to be born lifeless.[18] King David had been given 70 years by Adam HaRishon but since Adam had subsequently sinned, the patriarchs “donated” 70 of their years to him.[19]Yakov Avinu then prayed that this baby should be given life from the years of Adam HaRishon, that his body take its proper form and that each of his faculties should work. He forgot, however, to pray for his power of hearing. The (spiritual) cause for this was that Adam HaRishon, whose years he was to receive, had blemished his power of hearing when he did not listen to the command to not eat from the Tree of Knowledge. As such, the baby remained deaf and mute. His parents called him Chushim which means “[Having all of his] faculties” to indicate, euphemistically, that he was deaf mute. This is similar to the Talmudic name for a blind man – “Sagi Nahor” which means “having much light” and also to the appellation given to nighttime – “ohr” which means “light.”[20] His parents were so distressed by this incident that they both prayed to not have any other children, a prayer which G-d accepted. In the future [Messianic] era, G-d will grant Chushim extraordinary hearing powers which will be derived from the soul of Moshiach about whom it says, “He will not judge by the sight of eyes nor reprove [people] based on the hearing of his ears.”[21] For this reason, the name Chushim (חשים) has the same letters as Moshiach (משיח). [See also below.]

●      Assisting Yehudah

The Midrash[22] tells us that when Yehudah confronted Yosef regarding Binyamin (as told in the beginning of the Torah portion) he let out a great roar. Chushim, who was 400 parsah[23] away in the land of Canaan, heard this roar and came quickly to assist him in his upcoming battle. The battle never eventuated as Yosef revealed his identity before it could start. The commentaries[24] explain that Chushim heard the roar miraculously since he was deaf and the sound could not have traveled this distance in any case. Alternately, he did not hear anything but became aware of Yehudah’s distress due to their inner connection as both of them are compared to lions and are the progenitors of Moshiach (see below).[25] Chushim was able to arrive almost instantly as he was a very quick runner as alluded to by the word chish means “quick.”[26]Alternately, he experienced Kefitzat HaDerech – where the distance between two places contracts.[27]

●      Killed Eisav

The Talmud[28] recounts how, when the tribes were preparing to bury Yakov in the Me’arat HaMachpeila in Chevron, Eisav tried to block them by claiming that he was the rightful heir of that grave. Although Yakov had lawfully purchased the grave, the deed of sale had been left in Egypt. Naftali, who was a very quick runner, was dispatched to fetch it. Meanwhile Chushim, being deaf could not understand why his grandfather’s burial was being delayed. Seeing that Eisav was the one holding it up, he took a stick and struck Eisav on the head, killing him instantly.[29] At that time Eisav’s eyes fell out and landed at Yakov’s feet. Yakov opened his eyes and smiled fulfilling the verse[30] “The tzadik (righteous man) will rejoice when he sees revenge; he will bathe his feet in the blood of the rasha (wicked).”

The Maharal explains that the tribes and other family members did not act decisively as did Chushim, attempting to solve the situation in a measured manner. Thus, even though it should be unthinkable to delay the burial of their holy ancestor, they had “gotten used” to this untenable situation and therefore did not feel outraged. Chushim, due to his handicap, was not involved in any of the negotiations and as such, had not come to terms with the situation. He was unable to bear seeing the ongoing disgrace of his grandfather. This is why he acted so decisively and courageously.

●      Progenitor of Moshiach

The Midrash[31] says that Moshiach, who is compared to a lion cub, will descend from two tribes that are compared to a lion. He will be come from Yehudah on his father’s side (see Gen. 49:9 where it says “Yehudah is like a lion cub”) and from Dan on his mother’s side (see Deut. 33:22 where it says “Dan is like a young lion”).

May he come speedily in our days!

[1] Gen. 46:23

[2] Abaye in Bava Batra 143b

[3] See Gen. 46:15 where “his daughters” is referring to one daughter – Dinah (Pane’ach Razah by Rabbi Yitzchak Yehudah HaLevi of France, 1250 – 1290). See also Numbers 26:8 where it says “And the sons of Phalu were Eliav.”

[4] Rava quoting the Yeshivah of Chizkiyah in Bava Batra ibid

[5] According to Tosfot D.H. Shehayu, Dan had additional sons after they came to Egypt. The Tosfot Rid (and the Yavetz in his understating of Tosfot) says that it was Chushim who had many sons.

[6] Ibid 1:26. Since Chushim was Dan’s only son, the entire tribe were his descendants.

[7] Ibid 26:43

[8] Ibid 1:37

[9] Ibid 26:41

[10] The Midrash (Bereishit Rabbah 94:9, see Etz Yosef) ascribes this tremendous increase in numbers to the blessing of Yakov who noticed that Dan was upset when he came to receive his blessing with only one child. Yakov therefore gave him an extra measure of blessing.

[11] See Tosfot who cites Brachot 7b to prove that a person’s name can portend their future. An additional point is that the Torah writes the plural “and the sons of” in reference to the name Chushim as the name is indicative of a multiplicity of descendants (Tosfot Rid).

[12] Maharsha on Bava Batra ibid

[13] Bereishit Rabbah 94:9 as explained by the Matnot Kehunah

[14] Maharsha on Bava Batra ibid

[15] Ein Eliyahu on Bava Batra ibid

[16] Pirush Maharzu. It is not clear how this opinion would answer the above question that the extra person seems to have been a descendant of Leah.

[17] In Kise Rachamim, on Parshat Vayigash quoting from sages of the generation,

[18] Zohar, vol. 2, page 235, quoted here

[19] Five years were given by Avraham, who lived to 175 instead of 180, 28 years came from Yakov who lived to 147 instead of 175 while 37 years came from Yosef who lived to 110 instead of 147 (see here).

[20] See Pesachim 2a

[21] Isaiah, 11:3

[22] Bereishit Rabbah 93:7 based on Sefer HaYashar

[23] One parsah is approximately equivalent to one kilometer. See Maharzu who calculates the distance between the capital of Egypt and the center of Israel.

[24] Pirush Maharzu

[25] See Etz Yosef and Chidushei HaRadal. According to the Etz Yosef, Chushim was the ancestor of Serayah who will be killed in the battle before the coming of Moshiach. See Zohar, vol. 3 pg. 194b quoted here.

[26] Matnot Kehunah

[27] Etz Yosef

[28] Sotah 13a

[29] Tosfot (Gittin 55b D.H ViYehudah) quotes other sources which say that Yehudah killed Eisav. He suggests that Chushim struck him first and that Yehudah then finished him off.

[30] Tehillim 58:11

[31] Shitah Chadasha of the Midrash Rabbah on the Brachot of Yakov, Parsha 2

Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom UMevorach!

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