Different Reactions to Disaster by Akiva Fischman


            In Parshat וישלח (לד:א), we learn of the abduction and defilement of Yaakov's daughter Dinah.  After fleeing from his home from fear of Eisav, working to the bone to win the approval of his uncle Lavan to marry his daughters, then struggling with the angel, and finally having to face his brother, this seems to be an incredible burden to be set upon him.  Why should something such as this have to happen to Yaakov and his family?  Also, when the Torah tells us of Dinah's capture, why does it identify her as the daughter of Leah?  The answer to both these questions, according to Rashi, is that Dinah, like her mother, was an extroverted personality (as Rabbi Soloveitchik explains Rashi) thus acting as "her mother's daughter".  If so, why must she also be listed as Yaakov's daughter?  Indeed, the תורה in פרק  ג  describes דינה as the daughter of יעקב. The Sforno suggests that the reason is that this פסוק relates that Dinah was desired by Shechem, not only because of her beauty, but also because of  Yaakov's excellent reputation.  The Ramban offers a different line of reasoning, saying that she was labeled Leah's daughters to inform us that she was the sister of Shimon and Levi, the two brothers who would later avenge her for this tragic act.  It then lists Yaakov to say that even though Shimon and Levi were the ones who avenged her, the other sons of Yaakov would have done the same due to their admiration and concern for her.

            Yaakov and his children differed greatly in their reactions to this atrocity.  When Yaakov learns what had taken place, the pasuk states  והחריש יעקב עד באם, (לד:ה) meaning that Yaakov said nothing until his sons returned home.  Sforno explains that before the sons returned home, Shechem and his father Chamor approached Yaakov to ask for Dinah's hand in marriage. So, after the חוים made their request, why did Yaakov see it necessary to remain quiet?  Yaakov hoped to avoid a confrontation until his sons came home, so that when they returned they could defend themselves, if necessary, from the חוים.  The רשב"ם, however, says that בני יעקב and חמור, the father of Shechem, came to Yaakov at the exact same time, so neither party had the advantage. Yaakov reacted in silence to the demand of חמור, but Yaakov's children told the חוים that the only way that Dinah will be given to Shechem is if all the men of Shechem will circumcise themselves.  In Pasuk י"ג we read ויענו בני יעקב את שכם...במרמה.  Onkelos and Rashi explain במרמה that they acted cleverly - how were they clever?  The answer is they were bluffing in that they were counting on the fact that Shechem wouldn't be able to convince his people to circumcise themselves; בני יעקב made an offer they thought would never be accepted (Sforno).  However, Shechem's lust for Dinah was so strong that he was the first to be circumcised.  According to Sforno, to prove his love, he became the first to be circumcised, while as prince he could have been last to do so.  In the Pasukim that follow, while  the men of Shechem are still in pain from the circumcision, Shimon and Levi killed the men of Shechem.  Upon their return to Yaakov, they were greeted with the harsh words (לד:ל) עכרתם אתי, "you have polluted me."

            Why was he so enraged at the actions of his sons?  Surely he conceded that Shechem deserved some form of punishment?  Of course he did, but deception and murder were actions that Yaakov found unacceptable.  He wanted to "wait out the storm" quietly, seeing that his family was a great minority in ארץ כנען.  לוי and שמעון, however, felt it impossible to tolerate this atrocity without a proactive response.

Yaakov's Strategies for the Future by Zev Prince

The Downfall of Schechem by Eli Gurock