- Posted by Elaine Zecher
- On December 1, 2017
- 0 Comments
Welcome to Shabbat Awakenings, a weekly reflection.
It’s an ancient problem that won’t go away. Recent articles have spoken about it as if it’s a realization not considered until a mere few centuries ago. But it goes back much further than that.
Shechem son of Hamor the Hivite, chief of the country, saw her, and took her and lay with her by force. (Genesis 34:2)
Dinah, born to Leah and Jacob, had gone out seeking “the daughters of the land.” Perhaps, said the commentators, to find companionship since she was the lone female among a family of many brothers. Dinah was the seventh child of the union of her parents. We know that when the Torah accounts for something or someone as the seventh, our attention should be drawn to it, or her, in this case.
Yet, Dinah is silent. Dinah is silenced. Hamor took her by force and the text took away her voice. The story swirls around denying her any agency in the events that will unfold. She remained a captive of the Hivite ruler. Yet, the story will provide a clear message, yet to be revealed.
Shechem and his father, Hamor, hold great power in the community. The chief of the country and his son determine the next action. They act for their own interest. Now that Shechem has “had her” he is drawn to her so much that he loved her and spoke tenderly to her. To his father, he barked this command: Get this girl as a wife!
By the time they arrive to negotiate with Jacob, the news had already reached him and his sons. The men [Jacob’s sons] were distressed and very angry, because he [Shechem] had committed an outrage in Israel by lying with Jacob’s daughter—a thing not to be done. (34:7)
They hatch a plan to redeem her and most likely to retaliate for the egregious act. The men under Hamor and Shechem’s rule must circumcise themselves in order for Jacob’s family and theirs to intermingle. What extent will people go to increase their capital gains and material wealth? The Hivite leaders explained to the followers: Their cattle and substance and all their beasts will be ours, if we only agree to their terms…And they did.
What they didn’t account for was their painful convalescence and self inflicted vulnerability.
And then in an instant, just as Shechem had taken Dinah, her brothers take their swords and slew all of the male Hivites. The other brothers plunder their community and take Dinah out of Shechem’s house. The same Hebrew word, lakach, described each action.
To take as an act of violence, to take away someone’s agency, to take without consent or respect remains a scourge on any society.
We are in an era of “taking.” While we should not condone the brothers’ intense and vicious response, we can acknowledge that they did, indeed, respond. It takes the whole community to give voice to the outrage perpetuated on their sister. It is no longer just a woman’s issue. Their swift reaction is part of the message the ancients were sending to future generations. Don’t mess with the women. It didn’t turn out well for them then and it certainly is proving in our own day that such behavior doesn’t bear good results now either.
Tonight at Qabbalat Shabbat at 6 p.m., we celebrate many wonderful life cycle events from welcoming new life to rejoicing over 50 years of marriage with the Bar Mitzvah leading us in Qiddish, too. We also will learn from a wonderful educational organization which works to build a shared society in Israel between Jews and Arabs called Hand in Hand, Yad b’Yad.
Tomorrow morning the little ones gather at TGIS, Thank Goodness It’s Shabbat at 10 a.m.
Torah study begins at 9 a.m. with a short service followed by an engaging discussion on this week’s Torah portion.
Live stream HERE.
Connect with me HERE directly and confidentially with your own comments and reflections.