“And Dinah… went out to see (among) the daughters of the land” Genesis 34:1


Much has been speculated about Dinah’s desire to leave the safety of her family’s tents and wander off to explore the lives of other women, the daughters of Canaan; and much also about her rape by Shechem.

Jacob, Dinah’s father, is accused in midrashic literature of refusing to allow his “wicked” brother Esau to lay eyes on Dinah, lest he desire her as a wife; it is understandable to want to protect one’s loved ones, but to what extent?

Jacob presumes that Esau’s lust will endanger Dinah, he cannot imagine that Dinah might have within her the competence to withstand it and overcome it. Additionally, our sages suggest that Jacob fails to show chesed (loving-kindness) towards his brother and for both these presumptions is held guilty for inviting tragedy.

The emphasis on reluctantly releasing one’s control on any given situation permeates this parashah — Jacob and Shechem (the rapist) with Dinah; Jacob with his sons Shimon and Levi; and Shimon and Levi themselves, whose apparent loss of control in the resulting murder and looting of Shechem’s family only makes emphatic their fear of intrusion, of lack of boundaries, of losing control.

Rashi insists that in her going out, Dinah is equated with her mother, Leah, who herself was once fated as heaven’s intended for Esau. Often read in a negative light, this comparison bears a more uplifting motif. Leah prays and, in doing so, generates her desired outcome and marries Jacob; thus left to her own devices, she designs her own future. Perhaps, had Dinah not been boxed up, but trusted and encouraged to seize her moment, she may well have taken control and met with success.

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