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Beit Midrash Series Parashat Hashavua

Yehuda and Dan – Who Leads and to Where?

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The Tribe of Yehuda had 74,600 fighters from the age of 20 (Bamidbar 1:27) and the Tribe of Dan had 62,700 such men (ibid. 39). Yehuda’s encampment was the first to travel in the desert, whereas Dan brought up the rear (Bamidbar 1:9 & 10:25). These two tribes were neighbors in Eretz Yisrael, and there were two border towns that are attributed to both, meaning that they were shared – Eshtaol and Tzor’ah (see Yehoshua 15:20-21,33; ibid. 19:40-41).

This week’s haftara deals with Shimshon, who was from the Tribe of Dan and operated in this joint region. In fact, the midrash (Bamidbar Rabba, Naso 10) reports that Shimshon’s mother and paternal grandmother were from Yehuda. This is an example of geographical proximity causing familial intermingling as well.

We will look now at one of the troubling events in Shimshon’s life (Shoftim 15:4-13). Shimshon had caused great damage to the Plishtim, and he went to stay at Sela Eitam. The Plishtim surrounded the nearby Judean city and demanded that they go and tie up Shimshon and give him over to them … or else. The Judeans begged Shimshon to let them do so, and he agreed on the condition that they themselves would not harm him. How could the people of Yehuda agree to betray their neighbor and relative Shimshon?

The answer is found in the words of the Judeans: "Do you not know that the Plishtim rule over us?" In other words, they really felt that the Plishti dominion was such that they had no choice. It was this same fear of the Plishtim that actually caused a large part of the Tribe of Dan to settle, not in their appointed place, but in the north of Israel (see Shoftim 18). The Plishti dominion also was powerful in the time of Shmuel and Shaul (see Shmuel I, 13 & 23). They also controlled the metal production and did not allow the Jews to produce weapons or even metal agricultural tools.

All of this relates back to the story of Megillat Rut. Once Elimelech, a Judean leader, and his sons failed, the prominence of the Tribe of Yehuda waned. Most of the period of the Judges, Shmuel, and Shaul, the tribe was enslaved by the Plishtim. The blessing of Yaakov, which granted kingdom to Yehuda, began to be fulfilled only when David rose to the kingdom, which is hinted at in the end of Rut (see more in the soon-to-be-published Tzofnat Shmuel).

Our generation, which was blessed with independence and freedom from foreign dominion, needs to carefully guard the precious present that we have received. Let us remember this as we prepare for the upcoming holiday of receiving the Torah.
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