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Vayishlach 5782 ~ November 19, 2021

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of the tragic moments in our Torah reading is traditionally glanced over. It is the sexual assault of Jacob’s daughter, Dinah, by Shechem. It is one of those stories that even though it is recorded in the Torah, the shame attached to Jacob both by the violation of his daughter, and the actions of his sons that followed goes beyond the comfort level that one might expect to learn about in shul. Some rabbis in the commentaries actually blame Dinah for her own violation. They maintain that she strutted around town, in such a manner that was not becoming of Jewish girls or women.  The commentaries suggest that perhaps she was a willing partner.

 

 

At the same time, Shechem had fallen in love with Dinah. He was willing to do what was “right, “in that time. He asked his father to arrange for his marriage to her. He would do anything for her, since he truly loved her. He was willing to be circumcised, as requested by her brothers. So too was his father Hamor.

 

The brothers of Dinah had another plan. The circumcision was simply a ruse, so that they could become vigilantes and once Shechem was circumcised, while he was recuperating, they could attack and kill both Shechem and his father.  In the end, that is actually how Simeon and Levi exacted revenge.

 

Needless to say, as “just” as that retribution might seem in that era or what we might feel in ours, Jacob as a father could not condone such actions.  In truth, in our day, vigilantism of such a nature should not be tolerated either.  

In some ways, we have to wonder what Jacob might have been thinking. He states that he is worried about how others might perceive their actions, and their good standing might be destroyed in the community. The brothers respond, “should our sister be treated like a whore?” During the time of the Torah, marriage was one of the options. A second was providing a payment to the father that would compensate for the violation, and the change in status that the daughter would be given in a ketubah, a marriage document.

 

For the modern reader, we certainly are not comfortable with the events that transpired. Nor are we comfortable with the resolution. What is missing from the entire story is the emotional reality of Dinah, or how she was cared for. According to Pirke d’Rabbi Eliezer, Dinah is sent away to Egypt, where she gives birth. That daughter, then becomes the wife of Joseph. In that way, Joseph marries within the tradition.  Once again, such a midrash, is void of the emotional pain of Dinah.

 

While our society might have become more willing to deal with the truths, there are still too many hoops, both emotional and judicial, that those who are violated must jump through in order to seek any sort of justice.  The TV show, “A Million Little Things,” has been dealing with the reality, almost on a level of Simon and Levi, for more than a season.  The Rabbinical Assembly has now publicly posted all instances where members of the RA have been expelled for such actions. There are many other news stories of other leaders in the Conservative Movement who have been held accountable. And for that I am truly pained for the victims and for the silence of many years.

 

Wishing you a Shabbat shalom and in advance a Happy Thanksgiving.

 

I look forward to seeing many of you in person in our first hybrid service tomorrow morning!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sat, June 25 2022 26 Sivan 5782