The Snake that Roared

Ever found yourself frustrated by endless conversation while you knew that time for critical action was passing?  You need the roadmap to transformation.

Genesis chapter 46 enumerates Jacob’s children and grandchildren by name, arriving at a total of seventy souls who came to Egypt.  All is as expected until we arrive at Jacob’s fifth son, Dan.

Dan’s sons: Chushim.
(Genesis 46:23)

That’s right, Dan’s “sons” suggests a plural, yet there is only one—Chushim.  Strangely, his name ends in the manner that masculine plural nouns end in Hebrew—IM.  So yeladIM means boys; sefarIM means books, and susIM means horses.  Though Dan only has one son, ChushIM, there is a hint in the ending of his name that he is actually plural—two people.

We see one additional hint at a duality in the tribe of Dan:

When blessing his sons, Jacob compares Dan to a snake:

Dan will be a serpent on the highway, a viper by the path…
(Genesis 49:17)

By the end of Deuteronomy, Moses compares Dan to a lion:

…Dan is a lion cub…
(Deuteronomy 33:22)

From snake to lion is quite a leap.  It certainly seems that Dan has undergone major transformation in the few centuries separating the two verses.  In fact he is assigned a prestigious and protective post north of the Tabernacle during the desert journey. (Numbers 2:25)

What started this transformation? Ancient Jewish wisdom describes a rather strange story. When Jacob’s sons arrived at the cave to bury their father (Genesis 50:13), their Uncle Esau confronted them saying, “That burial plot belongs to me.”  The stunned sons reminded Esau that he sold his inheritance to Jacob, but he refused to give ground. They then dispatched Naftali to Egypt to fetch the contract to prove that the plot indeed belonged to Jacob. Meanwhile they waited.

Chushim, the son of Dan was deaf and did not hear the entire discussion.   When he asked, “What’s the delay?” his uncles explained how Esau was holding up the burial. This outraged Chushim. “Must my grandfather lie in disgrace until Naftali returns?” he yelled.  He immediately killed Esau.

What caused Chushim to have such an instantaneous and strong reaction?

Lengthy conversation and negotiation can have a numbing effect.  It can gradually erode the certainty of one’s position.  One begins to “understand” the other side.  Think of how many today have begun to “understand” those who would destroy Israel.

By contrast, the deaf Chushim who heard none of the interaction with Esau knew only that, “Grandpa lies in disgrace.”  He recognized Esau’s intent for what it truly was—a desire to remove Jacob and his descendants from continuing the heritage of Abraham and Isaac.  The delay was for the sole purpose of demeaning Grandfather Jacob rather than a valid confusion over a contract.

We are certainly not meant to model our behavior exactly on that of Chushim. However, those of us with ambition to improve our lives can learn from him. Sometimes we need to transform ourselves radically from snakes to lions as it were.  Such transformation is best brought about through action rather than talking, arguing, organizing or coordinating.  Often we can get ourselves out of the rut by a convulsive leap rather than by endlessly discussing detailed drawings and descriptions of the obstacles in our path.  Chushim really was two people—Chushim the First before transformation and Chushim the Second thereafter.

We are intended to use everything in Scripture to help improve every aspect of our lives.  We are to improve our relationships with people, with God, and with our property.  We are to improve our health, our moods, and our usage of time.  One of the most effective resources that we make available is our two-volume Thought Tool Set.  On sale for only $15 for both books right now, the set contains over one hundred inspiring and motivating tips, tools, and techniques for life improvement and personal transformation, and can help you and those you love.  Reading, contemplating and talking about these essays will help you know when the time to talk is past and action is needed. Act now by clicking here for more information.

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This week’s Susan’s Musings: Merry Christmas – No Reciprocity Required

“Have a joyous Christmas.”

“Thank you and Happy Chanuka. Well, I guess that’s over now but I hope it was happy, I mean…”

I’ve had a few awkward conversations such as this one over the past few days. In my daily life I regularly interact with Christians. From the woman who leads the exercise class I attend to the checker at the local supermarket wearing a reindeer pin, many around me are celebrating a special, religious occasion.

They often know that I am not. For some reason that leaves them tongue-tied…READ MORE

Read the most recent Ask the Rabbi question and answer here

Why does God sometimes address His words to Jacob and then to Israel even in the same verse of Scripture? I’m thinking about Isaiah 43:1.

Kathleen G.

Read Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin’s ANSWER HERE

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