- Jacob prepares to meet Esau. He wrestles with a "man," who changes Jacob's name to Israel. (32:4-33)
- Jacob and Esau meet and part peacefully, each going his separate way. (33:1-17)
- Dinah is raped by Shechem, the son of Hamor the Hivite, who was chief of the country. Jacob's sons Simeon and Levi take revenge by murdering all the males of Shechem, and Jacob's other sons join them in plundering the city. (34:1-31)
- Rachel dies giving birth to Benjamin and is buried in Ephrah, which is present-day Bethlehem. (35:16-21)
- Isaac dies and is buried in Hebron. Jacob's and Esau's progeny are listed. (35:22-36:43)
by Glori Stulman
As many of you may or may not realize, this is the first time that I am writing a D’Var Torah. I did not celebrate a Bat Mitzvah,nor am I Jewish, but I have studied the Torah, and my husband is Jewish, my children have been raised Jewish, and I am very involved with our wonderful Temple Beth Ami.
I selected this portion, Vayishlach, because it falls on my birth date. I thought to myself, I can do this, and then got a little nervous when I read that this parashah (portion) has the most verses of any weekly Torah portion in the book of Genesis. Go figure.
While doing the research for my D’var Torah, I decided to read both the Jewish and Christian bible translations, and see if there are any differences. I found that they have the same perspective. I’m not surprised, as the lessons that were taught to me from the Old Testament of the Christian bible, were the same as my children have learned from the Jewish Torah. I’ve decided to focus my D’var Torah on the story of Dina, a story that is not for children.
Genesis 34:1-7, it tells us how Dina, Jacob and Leah’s only daughter as far as we know, had gone out to visit the women of the land. Some may say that Dina, who was very young and probably naive, was tricked into going out on her own. While out, Shechem, son of the ruler Hamor the Hivite, had noticed Dina and had taken and violated her. However, it was not clear if the act was consensual. The verse goes on to say that Shechem then became fond of Dina and asked his father Hamorto “Get him the girl Dina to be his wife”. When Dina’s brothers (Jacob’s sons), found out that their sister was raped by Shechem, they were furious and filled with grief. This was considered a disgrace to their sister and family. Shechem begged of Jacob and the brothers “Let me find favor is your eyes and I will give you whatever you ask. Only give me the girl Dina as my wife”.
Did Dina’s brothers and father feel guilty that they were not there to protect their only sister and daughter? They were very angry with Shechem. How dare he violate their sister. How did Dina feel about it? Did Dina get herself into this situation by being in the wrong place at the wrong time? The chapter never says how she felt. Maybe Dina felt it was safer to be silent. Did she fear being shunned or punished? As with some third world countries, the woman may be stoned to death for having a relationship out of marriage.
In Genesis 34:13-24, the brothers deceitfully tell Shechem that they cannot give their sister to a man who is not circumcised. Only if Shechem and all the men agree to be circumcised, than Jacobs sons would be willing to give them their sister and the other women as wives. Their proposal seemed good to Hamorand his son Shechem. So they wasted no time, and every male in the city was circumcised.
However, the brother’s of Dina had an ulterior motive. Three days after the circumcision, when all the men were suffering in pain, Dina’s brothers went into the city and killed every male. They took all of the Hivites livestock and flocks, women and children. Jacob was upset that his son’s caused so much trouble for him. The chapter ends with the son’s replying “Should he have treated our sister like a prostitute?”
Was the retribution to harsh? In modern times, Dina’s brothers would be arrested, convicted and punished according to the law. Although I feel that many people would have fleeting thoughts of taking the law into their own hands, especially if it were one of their loved ones that were the victim. I also wondered why Jacob was so concerned about the “trouble” his son’s caused to him (Jacob), and didn’t seem be more concerned about what had happened to his only daughter Dina. Was this because women were possibly considered second class citizens back then?
When I was in my early 20’s, a close friend of mine was assaulted like Dina. Susan (not her real name), felt shamed and demoralized by this horrific act against her. She has kept her silence, and has only told a few people about what happened to her long ago. Was the fear of being shunned the reason Susan chose not to speak about what had happened to her? In general, society has taught women to be silent, instead of speaking out about certain things such as rape. Being silent just feels safe. It seems, as I read the story of Dina, nothing has changed in 4000 years.
And what about our beloved TV dad, Bill Cosby? I have to admit that even I was skeptical at first with the allegations that he drugged and raped several women over the years. A part of me still wants to believe that the women were after something. Again, this leads to one of the reasons why women keep rape silent. As not to be judged or blamed. Did these women also feel that it was safer to be silent?
We need to encourage and teach our daughters, sisters, mothers to speak out against this type of act. They need to realize that they are not to be blamed if they are violated. Our sons need to be brought up as caring and respectful men. And everyone needs to learn that only “Yes”, means “Yes."