Rabbi Dr Zvi Aviner
Dinah and Yeshiva for BN
The story of the rape and abduction of Dina, Jacob’s daughter, comes at the end of the section in Genesis that deals with Jacob seeking JUSTICE and CIVIL ORDER, namely the Fifth Commandment oof Noah.
The section begins with Jacob and Esau struggling for the firstborn rights, continues with Jacob struggling with Laban for his proper compensation, ending by Jacob running from the two of them for his life. He has brought his truth out, but for the price of peace. If there iis justice and truth, there is no peace. Finally he learned that it is better to seek peace by direct dialogue, even for the price of the absolute truth. When he learned that wisdom, his name was elevated to Israel. He may however resort back to the name of Jacob when dialogue fails and his adversaries take advantage oof him and his seeking settlement with peace.
Hence the segment is built in a crescendo, going up in depth with the perception of JUSTICE. The segment ends with the story of Dinah, in which reality explodes in the face of Jacob and threatens to destroy everything he has learned about JUSTICE. And at this crescendo, the Torah presents us with an idea that culminates her positive message to us about JUSTICE.
The same has happened before with all other segments in Genesis.
Thus, chapter on with its IDOLATRY Command end up with the introduction of the Shechinah entering our Sixth Day from the Sabbath.
Then the story of Eden that introduces ADULTERY, end up with presenting HasheM (YHVH) as a Forgiving Attribute for those who repent.
Then the segment of Genesis dealing with BLOODSHED, number 3 of Noah’s Commandments., ends up with the crescendo of the Flood, and the Rainbow Covenant.
Then the next segment of Abraham’s stories presents Noah’s 4th Command, THEFT, going up in depth and ending with Circumcision and the bounding of Isaac.
And now the segment dealing with Jacob seeking JUSTICE is ending with the crescendo of the story of Dinah, accompanied by an important message about JUSTICE, as we’ll see.
Let’s read the story. It is easier to distinguish in it several stages.
Stage I: Arrival at Salem
Jacob arrived at Salem, the city of Shechem that is in the land of Canaan (33: 18)
Salem, Shalem, means in Hebrew ‘intact,” in peace. This is important, since earlier when he had escaped from Esau he had pledged that if he comes back in peace he would “Make YHVH my ELKM,” which can mean as he would encode the way of Mercy into his Laws of JUSICE and CIVIL ORDER. For instance, he or his children would institute charity as a law, rather then a voluntary donation from a good heart. Or he would have a Sabbatical Year in this holy lands where all the poor coud come free to any field and harvest what they need. No culture in the world has ever allowed that!
Another meaning of Salem is the city of peace. There is a southern Salem at Mt Moriah called Jeru-Salem, nd there was a northern city called Salem which is now called Shechem, (NBLUS today.) Hence Jacob opted to settle right away at Shechm, seeking “peace now.”
And he encamped before the city (at the face of the city)
The simple meaning is that he did not join the city as a full citizen right away, for that wasn’t the custom oof the city. Instead he and his sones parked at the entrance, attempting to find face in the eyes of the people so that they too would become regular citizen.
The Midrash elaborates on what they did to find face. In short, they did whatever Noah’s Fifth Commandment Dinim, Justice and Civil Order, dictates for them what to do. After all, Dinim iis a positive Commandment of DOING something –
For instance – Jacob and his sons helped the city to
- Build courthouses
- Elect judges
- Set up a loyal police force
- Taught them a just set of laws
- Establish truthful silver and gold coins
- Establish public bathhouses
- Taught them the idea of the Sabbath, as the day of rest (Va-yichan, rested) including the story of creation and the notion of the Shechinah entering out world from the Sabbath. The SE says that he taught them also the idea of welcoming the Sabbath on Friday evening, at the transition between the sixth day and the Seventh. In short – whateve Noahides are expected to practice on Friday entering the Sabbath. Some add also the laws of carrying staff on the Sabbath.
That stage lasted for 14 good years, and everyone was happy and prosperous, since peace prevailed.
Stage II: The rape and abduction of Dinah
Now Dinah, the daughter of Lea, whom she had born to Jacob, went out to look over the daughter of the land.
Shchem, the son of Haamor, the prince of the land, saw her, and he took her (by force) and he slept with her (raped her) and he tortured her (repeatedly.)
And he deeply attached to Dinah the daughter of Jacob and he fell in love with her and he appealed to the girl’s emotions.
It seems that we don’t have to elaborate anything about that stage of the story. Rashi says that all nations prohibit such a misbehavior which is punishable by death.
Stage III: A dialogue?
And Shechem said to his father Haamor, saying: take me this girl for a wife.
And Jacob heard that he had defiled his daughter Dinah while his sons were with his cattle in the field, and Jacob kept silent till they arrived.
And Haamor, the father of Shechem, came out to Jacob to speak with him.
Apparently, Jacob’s silence prompted Haamor to try a dialogue. He knew Jacob well, and he was familiar with Jacob new way of solving conflicts by peace. Had not Jacob’s name been changed to Israel, the peace Lovers?
Jacob sons came from the fields, and when they heard, the men were saddened, then they became enraged for he had committed an outraged in Israel by lying with Jacob’s daughter aqndsuch a thing may not be done.”