Dora Bas Rivka Silver O'H
Who Wants to Marry a Benjaminite?
Because of the atrocity committed in Gibeah, the other Tribes had sworn at the meeting in Mitzpah not to give their daughters as wives to the Tribe of Benjamin. Now they had a problem: the entire Tribe had been wiped out except for the 600 refugees! What could be done? They couldn't violate their oath, but they also could not allow a Tribe to become extinct. What to do?
First, they determined that nobody had come to the meeting from the town of Yaveish-Gilad. Therefore, nobody from Yaveish-Gilad was bound by the oath. They struck down the population of Yaveish-Gilad, since attendance at the national assembly was mandatory on pain of death. They kept alive 400 marriageable girls for wives for Benjaminite refugees.
But this left 200 Benjaminite refugees without wives. How could they renew the Tribe without the other Tribes violating their oath? It was decided that the 200 remaining Benjaminites would go to the yearly festival in Shiloh. When the local girls went out to dance, each man would catch himself a wife. This would be done with the girl's consent, but not the parents', so there would be no violation of their oath not to give their daughters to the Tribe of Benjamin.
The Book of Judges ends by restating that there was no King in those days, suggesting that with a strong central leader, such tragedies could have been avoided. (That may be true, but we will see when we get to the Book of Kings that the ruler was the problem about as often as he was the solution!)
A short Insight into Judges, Chapter 21At the beginning of our chapter we read the culmination of the story of “Pilegesh B'giva”. B'nei Yisrael take an oath not to give any of their daughters to the remnants of shevet Binyamin - six hundred men. Subsequently, they gathered at Mishkan Shiloh and cried, asking, “Why, Hashem, has this happened in Israel, that one of tribe of Israel should be missing in Israel today?”
The Metzudas Dovid adds, “It is as if they were asking for guidance how to enable the tribe to survive.”
We can understand this request of desperation through the words of the Malbim. The Malbim emphasizes the importance to the nation as a whole of not losing even one tribe. “This is a damage that can not be repaired,” relates the Malbim, “and desecrates the splendor of Yaakov and the holiness of Israel forever.” As Chazal teach, the Divine presence will not dwell upon the nation unless there are twelve tribes in existence.
As a matter of fact, the Pesikta Rabasi (4) underscores the primacy of the the twelve shevatim to all of creation. “All that Hashem created is in the merit of the twelve shevatim. You find twelve months in the year, twelve constellations of the zodiac, twelve hours in the daytime, twelve hours in the nighttime. Hashem says, 'Even the upper and lower worlds I have not created except for the shevatim.'”
In this light, we can appreciate the refusal of Yaakov Avinu to be consoled when told of Yosef's tragic end. The Medresh Tanchuma (Vayeishiv) relates, “Yaakov said, 'The covenant with the shevatim has been breached. How hard I tried to establish twelve tribes. All that Hashem created corresponds to twelve tribes: twelve constellations, twelve hours of the day, twelve hours of the night, twelve months, twelve gems in stones in the ephod.'”