Monday, December 31, 2007

Lessons of Dinah

As anyone who has shared the table with me any Shabbat/Shabbos recently can attest, I've been obsessing over the story of Dinah. Perhaps it's the truly tragic nature of her life, which certainly tugs at my bleeding heart (I am, after all, banned by my husband from watching animal documentaries, because I inevitably end up sobbing over the fate of some creature who meets his/her demise). Or perhaps it's the fact that most of what we know about Dinah is in the nuances, in what is hinted about her, but not overtly told. In any event, here are some of the things that have crossed my mind while thinking about her story.

We learn two facts about Dinah, both of which suggest her potential spiritual "immaturity":
  1. Dinah is referred to as Leah's daughter, a term generally explained as connoting that Leah and Dinah possessed the same trait of being overly gregarious. It is this trait, we're told, that caused Dinah to slip out of the tent in order to watch the spectacle outside, which in turn lead to her abduction.
  2. Dinah, unlike her brothers, was born without a twin. This detail suggests that, unlike her brothers, she was "unworthy" of marrying into the spiritual family, since all of the brothers except Yosaif married the twin of a different brother.
We also learn that Dinah was kept in a box by Yaacov to prevent Aisav from knowing of her existence, since she was destined before birth to marry him. The abduction was meant to punish Yaacov middah-knegged-middah for not having given Dinah to Aisav as Hashem intended. Specifically, because Yaacov tried to keep Aisav, who was circumcised and would have had Dinah within the holy confines of marriage, Dinah was consequently taken by a man who was uncircumcised in an unholy fashion. Yet in the telling of her abduction, Dinah is acted upon, and we do not hear her reaction to the ordeal. More importantly, we do not hear of an opportunity for her to rectify her error herself. Rather, because the men enabled her abduction by not protecting her closely enough, they rectified the immorality that ensued.

Now, I do not in any way claim to have the definitive answer, the complete answer, or even a complete view of the story. In fact, I encourage anyone who has information that I'm missing to post, post post. However, when I reflect upon all of this, some thoughts cross my mind.

First, the term Leah's daughter implies the mother-daughter bond, i.e. the strong emotional tie between Leah and Dinah. In the aftermath of her daughter's abduction and rape by an immoral man, was Leah not torn apart? Moreover, was she not deprived by the ostracisation that Dinah experienced both while in the box as well as at the hands of the brothers post-abduction (an ostracisation that lasted the rest of her life)? By the fact that her only daughter never married properly but instead married Shimeon? By her granddaughter (Osnas) being raised as an Egyptian? But, secondly and more importantly, why was Dinah deprived of the chance to do teshuvah? Yes, she did everything right after being abducted: she screamed, she relayed a message to the brothers that the Canaanim were planning to attack Yaacov's settlement, she went with the brothers when rescued. So why then was she punished upon her return with ostracisation and with her child being sent to Egypt to be raised?

Perhaps that is exactly the point though. It's easy enough to understand that, as the daughter of Yaacov, Dinah had to be held to the highest spiritual standard. She could not remain with her child, since such a child resulted from an unholy union. And, in turn, we can understand that because she left herself open to abduction by being overly gregarious, she was in turn punished by her brothers with silence.

In other words, both Dinah and her mother did teshuvah by encountering silence, by becoming less social with each other. By, in the end, understanding the value of introversion. As for Osnas, her child sent to Egypt, Dinah could take comfort knowing that her child was spiritually worthy of becoming the wife of Yosaif, the mother of Ephraim and Menashe. Moreover, via ostracisation, the brothers also did teshuvah. By keeping Dinah amongst them, the brothers learned to protect their women better. For if they had truly been interested in safeguarding Dinah, in terms of her virtue, her tznius, and her overall spiritual development, the abduction could potentially have been averted. And by not talking to her, they remembered that their absence, which equals silence, resulted in her abduction.

In the end then, everyone learned a hard lesson. Everyone matured spiritually, if you will. And, perhaps the lesson of Dinah is really the hardest to learn, precisely because it requires introversion versus extroversion, silence over talkativeness, tznius over, know...

For both genders, in this gender-confused, post-feminist world, the lessons of Dinah resonate.

1 comment:

  1. As always, you explain it the best!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!