How often do people get caught up in an argument and lose focus on the matter at hand? How often do they even forget what they were arguing about?

One of the episodes in this week’s Torah portion (Vayechi – Genesis 47:28–50:26) is the funeral and burial of our Patriarch Jacob. Although Jacob died in Egypt, he made his son Joseph (who was the governor of Egypt) promise to take him to the Land of Israel for burial when he dies.

And so it was. As the verse says: “His sons carried him to the land of Canaan and they buried him in the Cave of Machpelah that was in the field that Abraham had bought as a burial estate from Ephron the Hittite, in Mamre.”

The Talmud describes Jacob’s funeral in Hebron. We are told that when the funeral party reached the Machpelah cave, Esau (Jacob’s brother) tried to stop the funeral and prevent the burial! Esau argued that the last remaining burial plot belonged to him, not to Jacob! Esau was then reminded by everyone present that he had sold his birthright, and all accompanying privileges, to Jacob many years ago. Esau countered that the deal did not include his burial place! The fighting continued back and forth. There was no end in sight.

While all this brouhaha was taking place, and by extension, a tremendous delay in the burial and proper treatment of Jacob, Chushim (the son of Dan and grandson of Jacob) decided to take matters into his own hands. What did Chushim do? He took a club and bashed Esau over the head. Essau was dead; problem solved.

You see, Chushim was deaf and had no idea what all the fuss was about or what anyone was saying. All he knew was that his grandfather’s burial was being delayed by Esau. Delaying a burial is considered to be a disgrace in Judaism. The problem was neutralized. Let the burial begin.

The commentators discuss many questions relating to this episode! For example, who was right and who was wrong? Where was everyone else? How and why was Chushim the only one to take matters into his own hands and get down to business?

And yes, Chushim’s act was acceptable under the circumstances.

Talking vs. Taking Action

It is explained that the difference between Chushim and everyone else was that he was deaf. Everyone else took part in the argument. They offered their opinions and said their piece. As the saying goes, two Jews bring three opinions. There was one person, however, who did not contribute to the argument/debate, and that was Chushim because he had no idea what was going on. He was not interested in the argument – he was focused on the matter at hand: an illegitimate delay in the funeral of his grandfather.

The lesson for us is clear. How often do people get caught up in an argument and lose focus on the matter at hand? How often do they even forget what they were arguing about? More often than not, all that matters in these situations is to win the argument. The focus and principle is forgotten. Emotions and ego take over. Chushim did not and could not get involved in the debate. He was focused.

We need to have the “Chushim Attitude.” We have to learn to be focused even in stressful and trying situations. We cannot allow ourselves to get carried away with frivolous matters. We have to stay focused on the issues at hand and get them solved in the quickest and most efficient manner possible.

By: Rabbi Ari Enkin, Rabbinic Director, United with Israel
For more of Rabbi Enkin’s insights into this week’s Torah portion, click below: