OU TORAHDedicated by the Jacobs and Chill Families in Memory of Harold and Pearl Jacobs
Dora Bas Rivka Silver O'H
Laying the Groundwork
Following the death of Joshua, the Jews consulted G-d via the Urim and Tumim to see which Tribe should be the first to conquer remaining Canaanite pockets within their territory. The first role fell to the Tribe of Judah. Judah invited Simeon to join them as Simeon's cities were scattered throughout the portion of Judah. (Refer back to the Book of Joshua.)
Judah captured the Canaanite king named Adoni-Bezek and cut off his thumbs and big toes. This kind of mutilation is unprecedented in Jewish warfare, but it was Divinely mandated as an appropriate punishment. Adoni-Bezek related that he had done likewise to kings he conquered, forcing them to scavenge for scraps under his table, like dogs. Because of his confession, the Jews kept him alive and brought him back to Jerusalem.
At this time, Caleb offered his daughter Achasah as a wife to whoever could rid Hebron of its giants. This was accomplished by his half-brother Osniel. (More about him a little later on.) This is one of the cases cited by the Midrash as an example of someone making a condition that could have gone horribly wrong, but turned out okay. The conditions of Eliezer (to find a wife for Yitzchak in parshas Chayei Sarah) and Saul (to marry off his daughter in I Samuel 17) also turned out okay. Contrast these with the story of Yiftach in a few chapters - that one did NOT end well. (We'll see all the details in Chapter 11, G-d willing.) Why did G-d assist Eliezer, Saul and Caleb? They were using their conditions to make shidduchim (match-making). Yiftach wasn't, so he lacked that extra protection.
The chapter ends with a list of Tribes and the cities from where they did not expel the Canaanite nations, a fact that is about to become extremely significant.
A short Insight into Judges, Chapter 1Chazal teach us that Yisro, Bilam, and Iyov were the three advisers of Paroh. When Paroh wanted to come up with a strategy how to deal with the Jews, he turned to his advisers. Yisro was the only adviser to object to a plan which would deal harshly with B'nei Yisroel. As a result, Paroh wanted to kill Yisro. Thus, Yisro fled. As a reward for his righteous and selfless advice to Paroh, Yisro merited to have descendants who would likewise give counsel – this time as members of the Sanhedrin.
Where do we find the descendants of Yisro begin to have connections with the Torah scholars of B'nei Yisroel?
Rashi tells us that we can see the sprouting of the fruits of Yisro's righteousness in verse sixteen in our chapter. The verse begins, “The Children of the Kenite, Moshe's father-in-law, ascended from the City of Date Palms with the children of Yehuda that is south of Arad; they went and settled with the people.”
Rashi explains, “They left the fertility of Yericho and went to Asni'el ben K'naz in the Judean Desert to learn Torah. He sat with … the students that were in front of him ...Hashem prepared for him these chasidim.
The descendants of Yisro had such a desire to learn the Torah from the greatest talmidei chachamim of the time that they uprooted themselves from the plush living conditions in Yericho to learn Torah in the desert with Asni'el ben K'naz.
Of course, the Mishb'tzos Zahav points out, this m'siras nefesh for learning, to leave the familiarity and comfort of one's home in order to learn Torah was not an original idea of these Kenites. This was an idea passed to them from their ancestor Yisro who left his home to join the Jewish people. He left his home and followed his heart to go to the desert, empty and vast, to hear words of Torah..
So too, his descendant picked up from the fertility of Yericho to travel to the Judean Desert to learn Torah. Eventually Yisro's descendants earned their way to be members of the Sanhedrin.