Note: This parshanut (Torah interpretation) Q&A relates to last week’s Parashah (VaYishlach). We are sharing it here for the interest of our learned readers.
Dear Rabbi Simon,
Please see Gen. 34:1. Rabbeinu Bechaye quoting Midrash Tanchuma presents the view that women should stay at home and that Dinah was at fault for going out. Does this not transpose the victim and the aggressor? Also, Rashi (32:23) suggests that Yaakov suffered the anguish and ignominy of his daughter’s defilement as a result of his refusal to give Dinah to Esav in marriage. (Perhaps she would have influenced Esav positively.) Is this fair?
TY for your interesting Qs.
Rabbeinu Bechaye is prompted by the fact that the Torah mentions that Dinah “went out”. The implication is that her doing so provided an opportunity for Shechem to abduct her. Note that the Torah could have narrated these events by simply saying that after Yaakov and family settled near Shechem, the son of the local warlord assaulted Dina.
The intent is not to blame the victim but to observe that her imprudent behaviour exposed her to danger. (Like someone who moves to an unfamiliar city, goes for a walk late at night, and is violently mugged. He may later reflect, “if I had not ventured alone into that unsafe neighbourhood, I would not have been attacked.” Dina may well have had similar thoughts.)
Rashi does not mean that Dinah suffered for her father’s wrongdoing. But inevitably Dina’s fate was misery for Yaakov as well. What did he do to deserve this? The Sages seem to criticize Yaakov for nixing any possibility of Esav as a shiduch (matrimonial match) for Dinah. Yes, there was bad blood between the brothers, but what other, more distinguished or promising shiduch options were available to Yaakov to seek out on Dinah’s behalf?
At a deeper level, Dina’s “outgoingness” means that she may well have had the personality and skill set to bring out the best in Esav. Remember her mother Leah was “destined” for Esav—except she did not want the job. Perhaps it would fall to Dinah in the next generation to elicit and fan the flame of the pintele yid in Esav? This remains one of the great “If’s” of history.
Rabbi Rashi Simon