You have no idea what a poor opinion I have of myself; and how little I deserve it. -W. S. Gilbert
The Israelite tribe of Dan had a checkered history. At some point during the desert journey, they were outside of the protective cloud that the rest of the tribes of Israel were in. The Midrash names the tribe of Dan as particularly connected with idolatry. However, the tribe of Dan also carried the prestigious flag of the “Measef” – the Gatherer. They were the tribe that marched last whenever the Israelites travelled. It was a credit to their strength and courage that they held the rearguard.
The Chidushei HaRim on Deuteronomy 25:18 wonders as to the negative portrayal of the Danites, and in actuality, flips the narrative around. He explains that the Danites were a people who were particularly concerned with justice and looked at things from the perspective of fairness and impartiality (as per Tractate Pesachim 4a). They did some soul-searching and came to the conclusion that they weren’t worthy. They weren’t worthy to be included with the rest of the tribes of Israel within God’s protective cover.
However, that was their mistake. Once God had directed them to join the rest of the tribes and come within the cloud, it didn’t matter that they weren’t worthy. God had deemed them worthy enough. And by declining God’s invitation to join the rest of the tribes, even though their rationale had some elements of noble self-sacrifice, it was considered akin to idol worship. Hence, the statement of their being associated with idolatry.
The Chidushei HaRim extrapolates this lesson to all of God’s commands. Though we may not be worthy, though we may think we don’t have the merit or the right to be considered part of God’s camp, nonetheless, we should join the camp whenever possible and keep as many of God’s commands as we’re able, even if we don’t feel worthy enough.
And may we always bear in mind that we are truly worthy enough.
To the memory of Dr. Dodi Tobin z”l. A tremendous inspiration and a heartbreaking loss. May God comfort her family among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.