A hard story to understand, the tale of the son of Shlomit bas Divree. The Torah sketches out the stark outline of details in this week’s Parsha.
Way back in Egypt, a woman was quite a friendly character, outgoing, ensuring notice with her way of greeting every person walking by…including an Egyptian overseer. Her name Shlomit (which means greeting) bas Divree (which means speaking). She always spoke up, this woman. The aftermath was not pretty. She ended up forced into a relationship, after being noticed. Notice can cause harm many times. The end result was her giving birth to a son whose father was an Egyptian overseer. Shlomit ended up suffering for her forward nature. (Incidentally, at that time in history she was the ONLY Jewish woman who was so indiscreet and had this happen to her.)
Shlomit decided to carry forward. Mistakes do happen and we do accept in our camp those who suffered indiscretions. Her son was born, and she and her son joined the Jewish nation on the Exodus trip and subsequent acceptance of the Torah. All seemed fine. However, as the years went by, a problem occurred. Each tribe of the Jews had its own camping site in the desert and they knew they would all be getting a slice of Israel in short order. Shlomit’s son assumed he belonged to the tribe of his mother and went ahead pitching his tent there. The tribe members protested. Tribal membership goes according to father’s lineage, and this young man was the offspring of an Egyptian man. “Not ours,” they said about him. And they were right. Jewish law stipulates that tribal inheritance and settlement is traced via the father, not the mother.
The law was told to this young man…and his reaction was immediate. In a fit of anger and despair he lashed out against G-d, saying things beyond acceptable, to the extreme of uttering sentences he knew would incur the death penalty. And that was his ignoble end.
You read the account and you can feel the pain of this boy. Was it his fault that his father was of the accursed Egyptian nation – he hadn’t chosen who his father was, nor who his mother would be? He was just a soul drawn into this world into an identity that was neither here nor there. You can feel for him. And, yet, you must come to terms with what we learn from his failing in life.
My parents always tell us, “der Bashefer blabt nisht shildig” which means G-d never ends up owing anyone anything. What that means is that doing the right thing, especially when it is hard, will end up with positive results (after the hard time is weathered properly).
What would have happened if that young man would have made peace with his situation and learned to deal with his reality with grace? Probably he would have ended up compensated brilliantly.
We see the contrast between this man and Yisro’s children. Since Yisro and his children were converts, they had the same no-man’s land problem as this man did. They, too, were not part of any of the tribes. Yet, they converted and stayed Jews anyway because they wanted to serve Hashem and do the right thing – not because they wanted reward. In the end, they were given land to settle that had not been given to any tribe, set aside for them. You see, holding on, past the obstacles, gets the person often the thing he might think he was missing, so long as he is willing to let go to the claim for it.
Pinchas, a holy grandson of Aron, not allowed to be a priest just because of the date of his birth. He held onto his sense of G-dliness without a trace of bitterness, even as his brothers got called up to Priestly duties and he got left behind. Guess what? Eventually, because he did, he entered the priesthood through his own merit.
Dovid, not allowed to grow up in the company of his holy elder brothers and pushed into the wilderness, held on…and became appointed leader of the Jews, raised above those brothers who seemed above him in stature. Dovid HaMelech summed it up with this verse, “Evehn Ma’asoo HaBonim Hayesah L’rosh Peenah” the stone spurned by the builders ended up the foundation stone.
Yet, that only happens if the stone doesn’t splinter and split. You must have a rock solid determination to stick the course no matter what. When we go through life, we have to remember that no matter what the circumstances we must stick to right and shun wrong. We can’t choose our actions in order to gain something, because if we do, the moment we think our “reward” is threatened, we leave the good course and flee into misbehavior. We have to do the right thing because it is the right thing, even if it seems we are not getting rewarded for doing that right thing…but in the end, in the twists of life that G-d allows to straighten things out, we do end up rewarded. It is the way Hashem works. We just have to hold on and weather the storms, stay true to course even through pain. Or lose out like the son of Shlomit.
And for a tip on how to weather that storm: sing, cry, pray and keep putting one foot in front of the other. Here is a great song from Itsik Eshel on this theme: http://youtube.ng/watch?v=iCagKJqoPbA&feature=related