It's Never Too Late
By Rabbi Pinchas Avruch
"And [Shechem] became deeply attached to Dina, daughter of Yaakov (Jacob);
he loved the maiden and appealed to the maiden's emotions.Chamor spoke with
[Yaakov and his sons] saying, 'Shechem, my son, longs deeply for your
daughter; please give her to him for a wife.'.[Shechem] did not delay doing
the [circumcision, a precondition to marriage] for he wanted Yaakov's
daughter; now he was the most respected of all his father's household."
(Beraishis/Genesis 34:3, 19) The Medrash (Beraishis Raba 80, 7) expounds
that G-d's love for the Children of Israel is expressed in the same three
terms as the love of this evil man: deep attachment, deep longing and
wanting. Maharzu explains that initially the Torah simply stated that
Shechem saw her and took her, like a bird that snatches a piece of
unguarded flesh. But once he contemplated who she was and whose daughter
she was, he was inspired to have a deep attachment to her, aside from his
physical lust. He was deeply attached to Dina because she was the daughter
of Yaakov, because he sensed within Yaakov an attachment to G-d.
After Shechem had violated Dina, he suddenly had a desire to cleave to her
because of her holiness and G-d connectedness, a feeling so pure and
genuine that it was akin to the love of G-d Himself for His Chosen Nation.
And this wave of emotion had such a profound transformative impact as to
motivate him to perform the very painful procedure of circumcision. How is
it that Shechem - who lived an evil life, immersed in self indulgent
gratification; who kidnapped and desecrated Dina because he saw her as
nothing more than a "piece of flesh" for his own self fulfillment; who was
one of the most immoral men on the face of the earth - had any desire to
attach himself to Dina's inherent holiness?
Chidushei HaLev (1) concludes that Shechem's profound personal investment
into life's profanities did not completely eradicate the refinement of his
heart and the purity of his soul. He, like any human, was created in G-d's
image and, thus, maintained the capability to not only recognize, but even
to desire and pursue holiness. And if the source of that holiness is the
woman whom he just violated, he was capable of completely eliminating his
initial perspective of her and pursuing that holiness, such that his love
for her contested G-d's for the Jewish Nation.
In the pursuit of spirituality, it is easy to reserve the quest for the
righteous and to write-off those who appear to fail more than they succeed.
Sad, for if one so spiritually pathetic as Shechem could tap into his
greatness of person and purity of soul, then spiritual growth and
achievement is indeed accessible to all. Further, we witness the importance
of connecting to Torah personalities and mentors, for if the lowly Shechem
was so profoundly impacted by Dina's casual interaction, imagine what we,
the spiritually striving, can gain!
Have a Good Shabbos
(1) the ethical discourses of Rabbi Alter Henach Leibowitz, Rosh
Yeshiva/Dean of Yeshiva Chofetz Chaim of Kew Gardens Hills, New York
Text Copyright © 2005 by Rabbi Pinchas Avruch
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