This week's Parsha describes the purchase of Mearat Hamachpela by Avraham as the burial place for Sarah and eventually our ancestors. When Yaakov was being brought from Egypt for burial there.
The Talmud tells us [Sotah 13a] that when the brothers arrived at the Me'aras HaMachpela [Cave of Machpela] in Chevron to bury Yaakov, Eisav came and protested. There was one remaining plot in the burial cave. The previous burial plots were used for Adam and Eve, Avraham and Sarah, Yitzchak and Rivkah and Leah. Eisav claimed that the remaining plot belonged to him.
The sons of Yaakov responded that Eisav forfeited his right to the plot when he sold the birthright. Eisav counter-claimed, however, that he only sold the "double-portion" to which a first born was entitled. However nowhere in the sale was it implicit that he was selling his own burial plot! The brothers responded that it was included in the sale. When Eisav demanded that they produce the document of sale, t
he brothers claimed that they did have the document, but that they had left it in Egypt. Eisav insisted on delaying the burial until the brothers produced this deed of sale.
Who were the brothers going to send back to Egypt? This was before the days of Federal Express. They sent Naftali, who was well known as the speediest runner among the brothers.
Chushim ben [the son of] Dan, who was deaf, inquired from someone about the delay and argument in the midst of the burial of his grandfather. Chushim was astounded when he was told what was happening. "Until Naftali returns from Egypt, my grandfather should lie over there in disgrace?" Chushim took a club and hit Eisav over the head and killed him. The Talmud concludes that this was in fulfillment of Rivka's question, "Why should I lose both of you on one day?" [Bereshis 27:45].
This is an amazing passage. Out of Yaakov's twelve fine and upstanding children and out of all the wonderful grandchildren, why was it that only Chushim ben Dan was sensitive to the intolerable nature of the situation? And why did the Talmud emphasize the fact that Chushim was deaf?
The Mir Rosh Yeshiva, Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz zt"l, explains that this Gemara teaches us a remarkable fact of life. The difference between Chushim and the other children and grandchildren was that the others, unfortunately, became accustomed to the idea that their father would lie there in disgrace until Naftali returned from Egypt. Why?
The answer is that it started gradually. First there was a claim. Then there was a counter-claim. Next came another counter-argument, etc. Everyone else became accustomed to the idea of the negotiations, without stopping to think that the scene was a world class offense to the honor of Yaakov.
Since they all had time to adjust to this slowly developing situation, they gradually became used to the idea. However, Chushim was deaf and was not involved in the whole dialogue. When Chushim asked what was happening, he had not had the time to adjust. All of a sudden, he was hit by the whole terrible travesty of the situation in a single instant, as if he was hit by a load of bricks. Chushim, thank G-d, did not have time to adjust.
We learn from here a powerful insight into human nature. Human beings can become accustomed to anything. This phenomenon is both a blessing and a curse. People could not live without the ability to adjust. Sometimes we find ourselves in terrible situations and we can not imagine how we will survive. But, thank G-d, people are adaptable and resilient.
However, the terrible downside of this phenomenon is that we can become accustomed to anything -- to murder, to violence, to anything. The first time a soldier kills in war he is terribly distraught. But when one kills for long enough and sees death so often -- even that can be accommodated.
The lesson is that there are times when a person must say, "I'm not supposed to become accustomed to this. I should always react with disgust and revulsion to certain situations."
Many students attend my shiur [class] as their 'last stop' in the Yeshiva. After my shiur, they often go out into the worlds of their professions. I often meet former students, a year or two later, and inquire, "So, how are things going?" They sometimes respond, "Terrible. I can't take the office. I can't take the dirt. I can't take the lewd language. I can't take the innuendoes, I can't take any of it."
I respond to them with a blessing -- "You should always feel like that, because if you become accustomed to it, that is bad." There are some situations in life to which we must always react with disgust. The acceptance of an intolerable situation is itself, the start of the problem.