R’ Meir (Sotah 37) says the tribes argued when they stood at the Red Sea with each one offering reasons why it should enter the sea first. Ultimately, the tribe of Binyamin took the initiative and jumped in. All the other tribes accepted this fate accompli – except Yehudah. The princes of this tribe were so distressed that they had lost the opportunity to be first that they stoned the tribe of Binyamin.
Hashem decided to reward them both. This decision can be understood by way of a parable. A father asks one of his two sons to wake him up before dawn. Since the son very much wanted to fulfill the mitzvah of kibbud av, he made certain to stay awake. His brother, though, was upset that he wouldn’t have the merit of the mitzvah, so he stayed awake as well.
When the appointed time arrived, the two began to argue over who should wake up their father. In debating the matter, they raised their voices and the father woke up from the commotion. He was deeply gratified by their devotion and promised them both a reward.
We know from the Gemara (Yoma 12a) that the edifice of the Beis HaMikdash was situated both on land that belonged to the tribe of Binyamin and on land that belonged to the tribe of Yehudah. The Sanctuary, its Entrance Hall, and the Holy of Holies were in the portion of Binyamin; the remainder of the Temple Mount, as well as the Temple chambers and courtyards, were in the portion of Yehudah.
Some people desire an end very deeply and do everything in their power to achieve it. But if the opportunity seems lost, they abandon their efforts and move on. Others, however, are so passionate that they won’t settle even when there doesn’t seem to be any possibility of achieving their aim.
Since the tribe of Binyamin successfully translated their strong feelings into action, it merited to host the Shechinah on its land. But Hashem rewarded the tribe of Yehudah as well because although it didn’t jump into the sea first, it was the only tribe that was deeply pained that had lost the opportunity to do so.
The Be’er HaChaim comments that every person has hidden potential – under-developed talents that he must utilize to be successful in all aspects of life. Contemplate someone who works hard at his job. He returns home at the day’s end exhausted and depleted and immediately falls into a deep sleep. Suddenly, someone whispers in his ear that his crops are on fire and all his property is in danger of being consumed.
The man will immediately jump up, energized, his weariness forgotten, in order to save his land. Similarly, if one found himself pursued by a lion, he would run with an intensity and speed he never knew he possessed.
An elderly man, a survivor of the bitter dark days of the Holocaust who lived in Yerushalayim, recounted the following story:
At the end of the war, as the Allied forces advanced into Germany, the Nazis ordered the death camps evacuated so that they could hide all evidence of their heinous crimes. They forced the camp inmates to march for many hours, subsisting on a small crust of bread and a minute amount of water.
If someone stopped to rest for a moment, or just fell down from sheer exhaustion, he was shot immediately. The elderly man walked in one of these marches, and for the first three days, he exerted himself to remain alive. On the fourth day, however, the elderly man said he just couldn’t continue.
He decided that he would lie down on the ground, even at the peril of being shot dead. His father, who was walking alongside him, insisted that he would not allow that to happen. He asked the two strongest men nearby to support his son as he walked in exchange for a valuable extra ration of bread he had.
After about an hour, though, the two men said they barely had strength to walk themselves and would have to break their end of the deal. There seemed to be no hope of salvation. At that point, though, the elderly man summoned up every ounce of strength he could muster and, with a tenacity and determination he did not know he had, he began to put one foot in front of the other and was saved from death.
After the war he merited to settle in Eretz Yisrael, where he established a wonderful family dedicated to Torah and mitzvos. The elderly man concluded that every individual is endowed with undisclosed potential which often, unfortunately, remains unrevealed and unrealized.
Throughout life, man encounters challenges and setbacks, yet one should never despair. The Hebrew word for despairing – me’ya’eish – is spelled with two yuds, which spell the name of Hashem. Even when one is in the depths of despair, Hashem is there.