by Rabbi Yisrael Kaniel – July 1, 2010

Amidst a lengthy enumeration of the different tribes of the nation of Israel, upon their impending entry into the land promised them by G-d, we read in the Torah section of  Pinchas (Bamidbar 26:38-43): “The offspring of Benjamin according to their families: of Bela, the Belaite family; of Ashbel, the Ashbelite family; of Achiram, the Achiramite family.  Of Shefufam, the Shefufamite family, of Chufam, the Chufamite family.  And the sons of Bela were Ard and Naaman: the Ardite family; of Naaman, the Naamanite family.  These are the offspring of Benjamin according to their families, and their count was forty five thousand and six hundred.  These are the offspring of Dan according to their families: of Shucham, the Shuchamite family; these are the families of Dan according to their families.  All the Shuchamite families according to their count was sixty four thousand and four hundred.”

In examining the aforementioned verses, the famed R. Yisrael Meir Kagan, known as the Chafetz Chaim, notes a striking fact.  Benjamin had ten children (Bereshit 46:21), whereas Benjamin’s brother Dan only had one (Bereshit 46:23) – and that one son Cushim was deaf (Babylonian Talmud, Sotah 13a).  Yet this one handicapped son of Dan grew into a progeny of 64,400 individuals, whereas the offspring of all ten fully healthy sons of Benjamin reached only 45,600 – about two-thirds that of Dan!

The Chafetz Chaim tells us that the Torah has revealed here an important lesson: “There is neither wisdom nor understanding nor counsel against G-d” (Mishle 21:30).  No calculations or rationales – no matter how logical – can overcome the will of G-d.  If G-d wishes one to succeed, it does not matter that he is one against ten nor that he is handicapped.  What are the chances that the progeny of one should come close to – let alone exceed – that of ten?  Who would expect it?  Yet, that is what happened, because G-d wanted it to happen.  The same is true in all situations and walks of life.  One should never lose hope.  If G-d is on your side, you can overcome all the odds.

“If you hearken diligently to the voice of G-d…and do what is just in His eyes, give ear to His commandments and observe all His decrees, then any of the diseases that I placed in Egypt, I will not bring upon you, for I am G-d your Healer” (Sh’mot 15:26).  “If you hearken well to Me and observe My covenant, you shall be to Me the most beloved treasure of all peoples” (Sh’mot 19:5).  “If you…carry out all that I shall speak, then I shall be the enemy of your enemies and persecute your persecutors” (Sh’mot 23:22).  “If you hearken to My commandments that I command you today, to love G-d…and to serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul.  Then I shall provide rain for your land in its proper time, the early and the late rains, that you may gather in your grain, your wine and your oil.  I shall provide grass in your field for your cattle and you will eat and you will be satisfied” (Devarim 11:13-15).  Over and over, we are reminded that, if we listen to G-d, G-d will take care of us – against all odds.

In fact, in his “Concerning the Jews” written in 1898, Mark Twain points out, “If the statistics are right, the Jews constitute but one percent of the human race. It suggests a nebulous dim puff of star dust lost in the blaze of the Milky Way. Properly the Jew ought hardly to be heard of; but he is heard of, has always been heard of.  He is as prominent on the planet as any other people, and his commercial importance is extravagantly out of proportion to the smallness of his bulk. His contributions to the world’s list of great names in literature, science, art, music, finance, medicine, and abstruse learning are also away out of proportion to the weakness of his numbers.  He has made a marvelous fight in this world, in all the ages; and has done it with his hands tied behind him.  He could be vain of himself, and be excused for it.  The Egyptian, the Babylonian, and the Persian rose, filled the planet with sound and splendor, then faded to dream–stuff and passed away; the Greek and the Roman followed, and made a vast noise, and they are gone; other peoples have sprung up and held their torch high for a time, but it burned out, and they sit in twilight now, or have vanished.  The Jew saw them all, beat them all, and is now what he always was, exhibiting no decadence, no infirmities of age, no weakening of his parts, no slowing of his energies, no dulling of his alert and aggressive mind.  All things are mortal but the Jew; all other forces pass, but he remains.”

Even when the Jewish nation has not fully obeyed G-d and His commandments, G-d keeps the Jewish people going – against all odds.  Imagine how the Jewish people would thrive if we were to truly “hearken diligently to the voice of G-d”!  It is up to us.  G-d has informed us and history has confirmed it.  We must believe in it and it will happen.

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