Upon learning that Shechem the son of Chamor defiled their sister, Dina,
Shimon and Levi devised a plot to avenge the disgrace to the family of
Yaakov (Jacob). They killed all the males of the city and plundered the
wealth. Upon the completion of this narrative, the Torah continues, "G-d
said to Yaakov, 'Arise, go up to Beth El and dwell there, and make an altar
there to G-d Who appeared to you when you fled from Esav (Esau) your
brother.'" (Beraishis/Genesis 35:1) Rashi (1) comments on the juxtaposition
of this command to the preceding events, citing a Midrash that explains G-d
was telling Yaakov that the episode with Dina was allowed to happen because
Yaakov tarried his travels, thus delaying fulfillment of his prior vow to G-d.
Where was the justice in allowing Dina to become the victim of a violent
crime because Yaakov erred? What is more complicating is an earlier
statement of Rashi indicating that the attack on Dina was unrelated to
Yaakov. At the beginning of the episode the Torah relates, "Now Dina, the
daughter of Leah whom she had borne to Yaakov, went out to look over the
daughters of the land." (34:1) Rashi, again citing the Midrash, notes that
the Torah refers to her as the daughter of Leah and not the daughter of
Yaakov because she had followed her mother's example in being
inappropriately extroverted. It appears that the necessary Divine
protection needed to avert these awful events was compromised by Dina's
unseemly actions; why does Rashi later assign responsibility to Yaakov?
"The Rock, perfect is His work, for all His ways are justice; a G-d,
faithful without iniquity, [he is called] 'Righteous' and it is proper."
(Devarim/Deuteronomy 32:4). Rabbeinu Asher (2) elucidates that one of the
differences between G-d and man is that when man takes action against
someone it is impossible for him to ensure that everyone else impacted by
the ripple effects of that engagement receives exactly what is appropriate
for him. In contrast, G-d orchestrates world events that no one is ever
impressed, influenced or impacted an iota more or less than is appropriate.
Rashi is telling us: Most certainly the tragedy that befell Dina was
Divinely deemed appropriate, G-d's justice encompassing factors the human
mind cannot fathom. But that alone, however, would not justify G-d allowing
Yaakov's resultant suffering. Therefore, Rashi explains what actions he had
performed that prevented the merit of his righteousness from protecting his
In the early 1900's, severe flooding along the Mississippi River caused the
deaths of many hundreds. When word of these tragedies reached the Jewish
countryside of Eastern Europe, Rabbi Yisrael Mayer Kagan, the saintly
Chofetz Chaim, instructed his adherents that they must contemplate their
deeds and repent. Notwithstanding the reality that Rabbi Kagan suffered in
no personal way from the events so many thousands of miles away, he had no
doubt that if he heard about these horrific events, then they must address
him and his service of G-d. G-d would not expose him to their pain if his
knowledge would not make a difference. Rashi reminds us that when we are
exposed to someone else's suffering - in our own city, our own country, or
in a land thousands of miles from us - we must introspect and consider
where we have room to change, to grow, to improve.
Have a Good Shabbos!
(1) Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki, 1040-1105; commentator par excellence, whose
commentary is considered basic to the understanding of the text