#MeToo – The Rape of Dina
This week’s Torah portion has one of the more troubling stories in the Chumush. Dina, the only daughter of Jacob, was abducted, raped and ultimately kidnapped by the prince in the region where Jacob and sons had resided with their families. In their attempt to save their sister, the brothers concoct a ploy and pretend to respond favorably to the overtures of partnership offered by the king whose son had raped and abducted Dina and now wishes to use the event as an initiative for the families to live and work together. Attempting to turn a rape case into a mutual benefit society of two clans is certainly a sign of the morals and the culture of the people Jacob and sons were dealing with. It trivializes the act of violence and is a window into their thinking.
The brothers pretend to agree, with the insistence that all the males must first circumcise themselves before any treaty can be made. King Chamor and his son, Shechem convince their constituents to this demand. On the third day, when all the males are in pain from the procedure, Shimon and Levi go into their city, slaughter the bunch, retrieve their sister and take her home.
Jacob is very displeased with this extremely violent reaction and makes his feelings known in no uncertain terms; pointing out to his sons that they have acted foolishly and have further jeopardized their security. “You have sullied me and have made me odious among the people of this land… I am few in number and should they gather against me and attack me, I will be annihilated – I and my household.” But the brothers defend their actions by responding, “And should they be allowed to treat our sister like a whore?!”
This is how the narration of this event in the Torah ends – with no clear resolution as to whose side might be right in this painful and serious disagreement as to what the proper response ought to have been. We are in essence left hanging as to what exactly, if anything, was resolved and unsure of who indeed was correct in their assessment of the situation – Yaakov or his sons.
And perhaps the fact that the Torah leaves us with this ambiguity is precisely the point it wishes to convey. When it comes to suffering painful injustices from the gentile world, which path do we choose: The way of Yaakov, the man who could finesse himself from any difficult and threatening scenario as he did with Laban and Esau, or that of the brothers who take the Dirty Harry perspective and basically tell the world, “to hell with you – touch one of us and you will all be dead men.”?
It is an ongoing conflict within the Jewish people that has played out throughout history and still does. Do we play nice, negotiate and sign peace treaties – even though the terms often times seem so absurd and clearly stacked against us – but nevertheless may be necessary as a means to avoid conflict and bloodshed? Or do we finally say, “Enough is enough, we are tired of being the world’s door mats. We have a right to exist and to live – a simple right that every other nation enjoys and that should be equally given to us. And like anyone else, if you threaten us, we will do everything and anything to protect ourselves, whether you deem it a ‘proportional’ reaction or not. And frankly, we could care less what you think of us because what has that ever gotten us?!”
Which is the correct answer? I would suggest by the fact that the Torah does not clearly give us a direction that it is implying both. There are times when we need to bend over backwards, as Yochanan Ben Zakai did when he cut a deal with the Romans upon his realization that Jerusalem was lost and any further fighting would only create greater losses. He understood, much to the disagreement of many around him, that the Jewish people did not have the upper hand and had to accept a situation that was not optimal nor just, but necessary in the long run. And so he thereby built in Yavneh – a place which clearly did not have the same religious or historical meaning to the Jewish people as Jerusalem – an alternative center for Jewish life. In essence he exchanged or sold Jerusalem for the sake of a continued Jewish presence in Israel, and not only is he not faulted, but he is credited with keeping Judaism alive.
On the other hand, how much nonsense do we need to accept? What is an Israel supposed to do when every action it undertakes is condemned, when every overture for peace is met with another demand that is clearly not acceptable and would only lead to ruin in the long run? Giving up Gaza was met with rockets, war and further demands. Any “peace” with the Palestinians still faces the threat of Hamas, Hezbollah, Iran, Syria and others who can change their mind at any time. The UN, the place that is supposed to be for discussion and compromise, has become an Israel bash-fest. At what point do we just tell the world to just take a hike?
We have a tradition that tells us that the only difference between the time of Mashiach and present day is that there will no longer be שעבוד מלכיות – that the Jewish people will no longer be subjected to the whims and capriciousness of the non-Jewish nations. No longer will we have to worry which President, leader, Czar, King or UN vote will come along to define our fate. The world will finally come to an understanding that their good and welfare is tied to ours and they will do everything to help rather than hinder our success.
But until that point we will be plagued with this ongoing dilemma of trying to figure out which path to take when dealing with the world’s injustices to us – the path of Yaakov or his sons.
Both are always an option.
Confusion never stops
Closing walls and ticking clocks…
Am I a part of the cure?
Or am I part of the disease?