“And Dinah the daughter of Leah… went out to see the daughters of the land. And Shechem, the son of Hamor the Hivite… took her” Genesis 34:1

By Elaine Robinson, December 3, 2009

The disturbing incident of the rape of Dinah and its aftermath takes place in this week’s parashah. The aspect that screams out at me is the silence. The silence of the victim Dinah, her father Jacob, and also of God.

Rashi comments that she is referred to as the “daughter of Leah” — and not of Jacob — because Leah’s daughter, like Leah, was “one who went out”, as it says : “Leah went out to greet Jacob in the fields” (Genesis 30:16).

Rashi says we can infer from the second verse that the first action, “and [he] lay with her”, indicates her consent, but the second, “forcing her” indicates her lack of consent. Is Rashi apportioning blame to the victim herself?

Alternatively, we could read the commentary as an attempt by Rashi to seek a voice for Dinah, as does Anita Diamant in her book The Red Tent, suggesting that Dinah was in a relationship with and loved her attacker. Is this the first historical example of date rape?

We will never know how Dinah felt, her voice is silent in the text. Jacob is silent and does not act to avenge his daughter, and so too is the voice of God. Why does God not intervene or punish the attacker and subsequently, the two brothers who in an attempt to avenge the rape, massacre the entire male population of Shechem?

Is God’s silence an attempt to remind us that we are partners in the development of the living Torah? We have a responsibility to think for ourselves and create a moral compass. On his deathbed, Jacob rails against the violence of his sons and distances himself from them:, “Let me not be counted in their assembly”. Perhaps this moral outrage is the lesson we have to learn: do not let your anger guide you, think before you take revenge and think about the moral obligation to make right what is wrong in the world.

Last updated: 10:24am, December 3 2009