Thursday, December 07, 2006

A simple answer

Parshat Va'Yishlah

We read about the story in which Shchem takes Dina and has his way with her. He and his father Hamor approach Yaakov and family and request her hand in marriage along with a general approval of their communities intermarrying.

Yaakov and family are not impressed, to say the least. They come up with a plan and suggest that they cannot marry uncircumcised people. if they would circumcise themselves, they could marry each other.

Shchem and Hamor have all the males in the community get circumcised and when they are at their weakest point (the third day), Levi and Shimon say they cannot let this happen and they wipe out the whole town to no resistance.

Yaakov is upset at his sons. He tells them off that this is not the way to act and they have put him in a precarious position.

Levi and Shimon offer a very simple response to their fathers scathing discipline. In 34:31 they respond with just four words. הכזונה יעשה את אחותינו. Should we let our sister be treated like a harlot?

Four simple words to deflect their fathers wrath. Four words that did not even answer the issues Yaakov had raised.

Sometimes the answer is clear. Sometimes the method of action is clear. No beating around the bush. Yaakov was worried about diplomacy and how it would affect his relationships with the various other natives and clans around the country.
But Levi and Shimon had a clear and simple equation. We cannot let our sister be treated like that. Nothing more. Nothing less. The time to act was upon us and we had to defend Dina. The rest does not matter.

And Yaakov accepted the answer.


Josh said...

And Yaakov accepted the answer.

M'nalach? If this is the case, why did he speak so harshly to them on his deathbed?

Sometimes shtikah k'hoda'ah dami, but sometimes shtikah just means that one realizes any further argument isn't worthwhile from a pragmatic standpoint.

Rafi G said...

could be. I did not think of it like that. I assumed he accepted the answer.

However, (and I have seen this in the meforshim) it seems likely that Yaakov did agree with them.

Yaakov never criticized what they did. He criticized them for the effect it would have on his relations with the other nations in Cnaan. He did not criticize them for what they actually did though.
Even in Vayehi, IIRC, he only criticizes their haste and anger, not what they did.

I still think Yaakov agreed with their response.

HarmonicJew said...

2 things, a) what is IIRC
b) So i'm usually not so liberal, but to kill the whole city for the king/prince's fault?

Rafi G said...

harmonic - IIRC stands for If I remember correctly.

By the way, I was correct - Rashi in VaYehi says he only cursed their anger, not their actions.

Regarding your second point, all I can say that justice in biblical times was meted out differently than in our democratic societies nowadays. It seems cruel and overkill to us, but that was the way they did things then. I guess they were making a point. Nobody after that messed with them, so I guess it worked...