Our triennial focuses on Dina's story.
- Using the text, describe Dina with your own words.
- Describe Shechem. What does the text imply about Shechem's power?
- Using the text, describe Shechem’s three actions. If this is a case of rape, what is missing? What does the simple meaning (pshat) imply regarding Dina’s agency?
- Using the text, describe the understanding of Shechem’s actions by Yaakov.
- Using the text, describe how Chamor sees what has happened. Why is it possible that the town does not see the danger?
- Using the text, describe how the brothers see what happened.
- What do you imagine is going to be the traditional understanding of Dina?
(א) ותצא דינת בת לאה, יצאה מאהל אמה ואביה שהיה מחוץ לעיר ובאה אל העיר לראות בבנות הארץ. ומה שאמר בת לאה, דרשו בו (ב"ר פ') יוצאנית בת יוצאנית "ותצא לאה לקראתו" ואמר אשר ילדה ליעקב, כי מה שקרה לה עונש יעקב היה כמו שכתבנו:
(1) ותצא דינה בת לאה, she went forth from her parents' tent that was outside of the city, and entered the city to see the daughters of the land. The reason why the Torah underscored that she was the daughter of Leah, was to tell us that she was "Yatzanit" like her mother. The reason the Torah mentioned that she was the daughter of Yaakov,” was in order to tell us that what happened to her was a punishment on account of her father's action.
Radak paraphrases Rashi. There is no doubt that Rashi made "the victim is as guilty" the most common vision in the uneducated read of this story. But other commentators, particularly Abarbanel, (last source, not completely translated) will disagree.
Rashi (see below) will also bring the midrash that puts blame on Yaakov. Yaakov's inaction will be part of Abarbanel's exploration of the issue.
(א) ותדבק נפשו בדינה בת יעקב, דבקה נפשו בה בעבור יפיה ועוד שהיתה בת אדם גדול ונכבד.
(ב) וידבר על לב הנערה, בעבור שעינה דבר על לבה שלא יחר לה, וכי הוא ישאנה לאשה, והוא נשיא הארץ:
(1) ותדבק נפשו בדינה בת יעקב, his soul felt a strong attachment to her on account of her beauty as well as on account of the fact that she was the daughter of an outstanding personality, Yaakov.
(2) וידבר על לב הנערה, seeing that he had caused her pain, he now did his best to soothe her feelings as he was intent of marrying her and needed her consent. He hoped that his being the crown prince would help sway her opinion in his favour.
(א) ותדבק נפשו על הפך באמנון לתמר אחר ששכב אותה:
(ב) בדינה בת יעקב בשביל שהיתה בת יעקב הנכבד בעיני האומות כאמרו אח''כ כי חפץ בבת יעקב:
(1) ותדבק נפשו, this was the opposite of Amnon having raped Tamar whose infatuation with her turned to disgust the moment he had satisfied his biological urge. (Samuel II 13,14-16)
(2) בדינה בת יעקב, because she was the daughter of the widely respected Yaakov, someone of an international reputation. The Torah confirms this once more later in verse 19 when it describes Shechem as desiring the “daughter of Yaakov.”
ר' ברכיה בשם רבי לוי: לאחד שיש בידו לטירא של בשר וכיון שגלה אותה ירד העוף עליו וחטפה ממנו, כך ותצא דינה בת לאה וירא אותה שכם בן חמור
When one has a pound of meat and he exposes it, that is when the birds snatch it from you. In this way did Dina Bat Leah go out and Shchem saw her.
לראות בבנות הארץ: לעיין נשי הארץ ההיא ומנהג מלבושן, כמשפט הבנות. ובס' השמרונים כתוב להראות.
To see the daughters of the land: To look at the women of the land, and their clothing as women tend to do. And in the Samaritan Pentateuch it is written להראות (to instruct instead of to see)
Shadal brings another defense, obliquely: Dina was going out to instruct the local girls - just as her great-grandmother did. The idea that she goes to see what the women in the land wear is a common traditional explanation, given also by Abarbanel below.
(א) כתיב, וּבָא הַבַּיִת וְסָמַךְ יָדוֹ עַל הַקִּיר וּנְשָׁכוֹ הַנָּחָשׁ (עמוס ה, יט). וכשבא יעקב לארץ אחוזתו שבארץ כנען נשכו הנחש, ואי זה הוא הנחש, זה שכם בן חמור שהיתה בתו של יעקב יושבת אוהלים ולא היתה יוצאה לחוץ מה עשה שכם בן חמור הביא נערות משחקות חוצה לו מתופפות ויצאה דינה לראות בבנות הארץ המשחקות ושללה ושכב עמה והרתה וילדה את אסנת ואמרו בני ישראל להורגה שאמרה עכשו יאמרו בכל הארץ שיש בית זנות באהלי יעקב.
(1) JOSEPH AND HIS BRETHREN
"OR went into the house and leaned his hand on the wall, and the serpent bit him" (Amos v. 19). When Jacob went into his house in the land of Canaan the serpent bit him. || And who was the serpent? This was Shechem, the son of Chamor. Because the daughter of Jacob was abiding in the tents, and she did not go into the street; what did Shechem, the son of Chamor, do? He brought dancing girls who were (also) playing on pipes in the streets. Dinah went forth to see those girls who were making merry; and he seized her, and he slept with her, and she conceived and bare Asenat. The sons of Israel said that she [Asenat] should be killed, for they said that now people would say in all the land that there was an prostitution house in the tents of Jacob.
(ב) מה עשה יעקב, הביא שרץ של זהב שם הקדש כתוב בו ותלה על צוארה, ושלחה והלכה, והכל צפוי לפני הב"ה. וירד מיכאל המלאך והורידה למצרים לבית פוטיפרע, שהיתה אסנת ראויה ליוסף לאשה, והיתה אשתו של פוטיפרע עקרה, וגדלה עמה כבת, וכשירד יוסף למצרים לקחה לו לאשה, שנ' ויתן לו את אסנת בת פוטיפרע.
(2) What did (Jacob) do? He wrote the Holy Name upon a golden plate, and suspended it about her neck and sent her away. She went her way. Everything is revealed before the Holy One, blessed be He, and Michael the angel descended and took her, and brought her down to Egypt to the house of Potiphera; because Asenath was destined to become the wife of Joseph. Now the wife of Potiphera was barren, and (Asenath) grew up with her as a daughter. When Joseph came down to Egypt he married her, as it is said, "And he gave him to wife Asenath the daughter of Potiphera priest of On" (Gen. xli. 45).
The midrash tries to fix two problems: Dina's disappearance and Yosef's marriage later on. They give Dina a more accepted role - mother - and ascribe Jewishness to Asenat.
On the brother's and Yaakov's reactions:
1. Note the word used to describe what happened (verse 5). How does it compare with verb used in verse 2?
2. What is Yaakov's reaction when he hears what happened to Dinah?
3. What is the reaction of Dinah's brothers? What is specified as the "vile thing" that Shechem did? Note the verb used in verse 7 and compare with verse 2.
4. What does Shechem offer in his negotiation for permission to marry Dinah? What is the significance of the repetition of the word "very" in verses 7 and 12?
5. Why is Chamor talking to the brothers, and not Yaakov?
From Ellen Frankel's Five Books of Miriam, p. 66
OUR DAUGHTERS ASK: Does Shechem really fall in love with Dinah at first sight? He doesn't seem the type!
DINAH ANSWERS: You're right! Read the story carefully and note the order of events: Shechem, son of Hamor (whose name means "ass"), first saw me, then took me, and then lay with me by force.
Only after these actions did he feel "STRONGLY DRAWN" to me and "IN LOVE WITH THE MAIDEN." And only then did he finally speak "TO THE MAIDEN TENDERLY" and ask that his father "GET ME THIS GIRL AS A WIFE" (34:2-4).
OUR MOTHERS COMMENT: How clearly the Torah understands the nature of rape! As we have reaffirmed in our own time, sexual violation is an act of violence, not desire. Shechem is driven not by animal instincts but by human aggression and appetite, the lust to possess, not to mate. It is first a lust of the eye, and only later of the heart.
Etz Hayim [with commentary of Nahum Sarna, Jewish Publication Society] (1985)
bride-price: The Hebrew word mohar refers to the payment made by the prospective husband in return for the bride. The amount is usually fixed by custom. Shechem's readiness to pay far beyond that is a tacit recognition of the need to make reparations.
gifts: The ceremonial gifts made to the bride's family.
Ellen Frankel's The Five Books of Miriam (p. 67)
OUR DAUGHTERS ASK: Why does Shechem's father, Hamor, speak with Dinah's brothers instead of with her father?
HAGAR THE STRANGER ANSWERS: Hamor, the shrewd chieftan of Shechem, chooses to present his proposition to Dinah's brothers because they are the ones who will eventually need to marry wives from among "the daughters of the land." Jacob, on the other hand, who's married to one of his own, might not prove as sympathetic to his proposal.
Jacob ignores his obligation to protect the women of his household and ignores Dinah’s suffering. This seems peculiar — does it suggest that Dinah was not raped? In the Hebrew Scriptures, rape is generally indicated by a cry for help from the woman (showing lack of consent) and violence on the part of the man (indicating a forcible, hostile act).
But the intercourse of Shechem does not fit this pattern. Genesis 34:2 reports that he sees Dinah, takes her (the Hebrew word for “take” is often used for taking a wife), lies with her (a euphemism for sexual intercourse), and shames her (the NRSV combines the last two verbs, rendering “lay with her by force,” a reading that should be contested).
Then the text (v. 3) provides three expressions of affection: first it says he bonds with her (the NRSV uses “was drawn” to her, but the word bonds more appropriately represents a word used for marital bonding), then that he loves her, and finally that he speaks tenderly to her. From this description Shechem appears to be a man in love, not a man committing an exploitative act of rape. Rapists feel hostility and hatred toward their victims, not closeness and tenderness.
So why does the text include the verb to shame (or to humble, put down), and why does it record that Jacob’s daughter has been “defiled” (Genesis 34:5; compare Genesis 34:13, 27)? Shame, or intense humility, usually relates to failure to live up to societal goals and ideals. Because sexual relations should be part of marital bonding, it is shameful for an unmarried woman like Dinah to have sex. The declaration of love and desire for marriage comes after she and Shechem have sex.
But concerning the question of whether Dinah has been raped, the final clue comes in the last sentence of the story. Simeon and Levi say, “Should our sister be treated like a whore?” (34:31). Prostitutes engage in sexual intercourse for financial gain, and their sexual actions involve mutual consent. Rape therefore does not characterize either prostitution or what has happened to Dinah.
(1) ואת אחד עשר ילדיו AND HIS ELEVEN CHILDREN — But where was Dina? He placed her in a chest and locked her in so that Esau should not set his fancy upon her (desire to marry her). On this account Jacob was punished — because he had kept her away from his brother for she might have led him back to the right path; she therefore fell into the power of Shechem (Genesis Rabbah 76:9).
(ט) וַיָּקָם בַּלַּיְלָה הוּא וַיִּקַּח אֶת שְׁתֵּי נָשָׁיו וְאֶת שְׁתֵּי שִׁפְחֹתָיו וגו' (בראשית לב, כג), וְדִינָה הֵיכָן הִיא, נְתָנָהּ בְּתֵבָה וְנָעַל בְּפָנֶיהָ, אָמַר הָרָשָׁע הַזֶּה עֵינוֹ רָמָה הִיא, שֶׁלֹא יִתְלֶה עֵינָיו וְיִרְאֶה אוֹתָהּ וְיִקַּח אוֹתָהּ מִמֶּנִּי. רַב הוּנָא בְּשֵׁם רַבִּי אַבָּא הַכֹּהֵן בַּרְדְּלָא אָמַר, אָמַר לוֹ הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא (איוב ו, יד): לַמָּס מֵרֵעֵהוּ חָסֶד, מָנַעְתָּ מֵרֵעֲךָ חָסֶד, מָנַעְתָּ חַסְדְּךָ מִן אֲחוּךְ, דְּאִלּוּ אִתְנְסֵיבַת לְגַבְרָא לָא זִנְּתָה [נסח אחר: דנסבת לאיוב לאו גירתיה בתמיה], לֹא בִקַּשְׁתָּ לְהַשִֹּׂיאָהּ לְמָהוּל הֲרֵי הִיא נִשֵֹּׂאת לְעָרֵל, לֹא בִקַּשְׁתָּ לְהַשִֹּׂיאָהּ דֶּרֶךְ הֶתֵּר הֲרֵי נִשֵֹּׂאת דֶּרֶךְ אִסּוּר, הֲדָא הוּא דִכְתִיב (בראשית לד, א): וַתֵּצֵא דִינָה בַּת לֵאָה.
That same night he arose, and taking his two wives, his two maidservants, etc.
But where was Dina? He placed her in a chest and locked her in. He said, this wicked one has a wandering eye; let him not see her and take her from me. Rav Huna said in the name of Rabbi Abba HaKohen Bardela: God said to him, "He who withholds kindness from a friend [forsakes the fear of the almighty]"; You have withheld kindness from a friend, you have withheld your kindness from your brother. Had you married her to [Esau] she would not have sinned. You didn't want her to marry one who is circumcised? She married an uncircumcised one! You didn't want her to marry legally? She married illegitimately! As it says, (Gen 32:24) "And Dina, daughter of Leah, went out."
שאלת היציאה לשוק והחשיפה בפני אחרים היא אפוא סוגיה שימיה כימי דינה, ואף אנחנו עצמנו עוסקים בו בכל עת, כאשר מדובר בסוגיות פתיחות ומעורבות מול הגנה ושמירה. כדרכן של סוגיות אלה, לא ניתן לקבוע דרך אחת נכונה לכולם, ולא ניתן להציע הרבה מעבר למפתח יסודי של החובה לבנות חוט שידרה עוצמתי דיו כתנאי הכרחי ליציאה מתוך המסגרות הבועתיות אל מרחב החיים הגדול שסביבנו. ובכל זאת, משעה שיודע אדם כי אף לא אחת מהדרכים מבטיחה דבר – שהיציאה החוצה עלולה להיות סיבה לנפילה, אך גם אין וודאות כלשהי בתוצאות ההטמנה בתיבה – אפשר שהאמירות הבטוחות יפנו את מקומן לתנועה מתמדת של בדיקה ובחינה, ניסיון ולמידה, ומתוך הענווה הגדולה הזו אפשר שימצא אדם את דרכו המדויקת.
Rav Yuval Cherlow, Yeshivat Hesder Rana'na
The question of entering the public sphere and exposure to others is an issue as old as Dina herself. We too deal with it in our own time, when we deal with questions of openness and fraternization balanced against protection and guarding. As is our way in these matters, one cannot set a single correct path for everyone, and one cannot offer more than the central point - to build, as a necessary precondition, a strong enough backbone for going out from one's own bubble to the great expanse of life all around us. And yet with this, one must realize that no amount of guarding can nessecarily prevent against all occurences: "going out" may very well lead to problems, but "being hidden in the box" cannot guarentee its consequences either.... One must strive for a constant movement of pondering and examination, experience and learning, and from this great humility a person may find his or her exact path.
The episode of the violation of Dina by Shechem is one of the most troubling passages in the Torah. Most troubling is the reaction of the two fathers, Yaakov and Chamor. The former’s reaction is totally passive, a seeming disinterest that is appalling; meanwhile, the latter’s response is so sanguine as to be unintelligible - how could any father not be horrified by his son’s act of rape, even to the point of trying to negotiate a treaty based on that son’s feelings of “love”? Furthermore, how could Chamor’s townspeople not expect Dina’s family to avenge such an abominable crime?
The answer is simple, if shocking: according to the plain meaning of the verses, as Rav Papa notes (Yoma 77b), Dina was not raped. She goes out “to see with the girls of the land” (34:2) and we know whom they went to see: the boys of the land. (See Rashi ibid.) Furthermore, the expression of force, “chazaka” or “tefisa,” which we find by every case of rape in Scripture (Bemidbar 5:13; Devarim 22:25, 28; II Shemuel 13:14) and defines an act of intercourse as being against the woman's will, is missing here. The term “inui,” which does appear here, does not indicate force, but any case of mistreatment of the body, self-inflicted, imposed, or willing, as seen by its use to describe fasting (Vayikra 23:32), slavery (Bereishit 15:13), and even adultery (Devarim 22:24). Moreover, from the psychological standpoint, the usual case of rape results in disgust on the part of the rapist for his victim; so Amnon casts his half-sister Tamar into the streets (II Shemuel 13:15-19), and so the rapist is enjoined to marry and never to divorce his victim unless she desires it (Devarim 22:29). As regards Shechem, on the contrary, “his soul clung to Dina… and he loved the girl, and he spoke to the girl’s heart” (34:3).
Bearing this in mind, we can now understand the three distinct views of Dina's experience. Rape is an objective crime; seduction, however, is not. It is subject to interpretation, in this case three of them: that of Yaakov (“for Dina his daughter had been defiled” [v. 5]); that of his sons (“for an abomination had been committed in Yisrael” [v. 7]); and that of Chamor (“Shechem my son longs for your daughter” [v. 8]).
Let us examine these three views. To Yaakov’s mind, his daughter has been defiled; his baby, unaccustomed to the attentions of men she is not related to, has been taken advantage of by the local prince, a youth who may have slept with half the girls in his town already. Perhaps she even believes she is in love with him. He is upset, but he remains silent; what can he say now? He certainly does not want to leave his daughter in the hands of this fiend, but he cannot force her to leave either.
For Yaakov’s sons, Dina’s brothers, it is a clear-cut case of rape - statutory rape, perhaps, but the legal difference is slight. “For an abomination had been committed in Yisrael, to sleep with a daughter of Yaakov - such cannot be done!” They all decide to act with guile, convincing the townspeople to circumcise themselves. Shimon and Levi, the zealots, alone murder every male, but everyone helps in the plunder (v. 25-28).
Chamor, on the other hand, sees it as a case of young love. Apparently, he is serious, seeing a full socioeconomic assimilation in his town’s future. Indeed, his townsmen see circumcision as a prerequisite for the assimilation of Yisrael amid the Chivi. They suspect nothing, since they see nothing wrong with the whole situation.