Dinah, Leah’s daughter whom she bore to Yaakov, went out to look at the daughters of the land.
Be’er Mayim Chaim: The Torah relates that Dinah went out to look at the daughters of the land / bivnos ha-aretz. The phraseology seems a bit forced. “Bivnos” sounds like the preposition “in” – in the daughters of the land. We should have expected es bnos ha-aretz instead.
More surprising is Chazal’s explanation
While this approach offers a unique perspective on events in the parshah, and allows us to draw important conclusions about behavior, it still seems out of character for a Torah that takes pains to employ delicacy of expression. After all, the Torah prefers to take an extra, precious word to speak about mere animals as being “not tahor” rather than call them “tameh.”
That, perhaps, is the point. Chazal meant to compare Dinah’s reasons for going out to the holy intentions of her mother. Dinah as well went out for a mitzvah-purpose. She looked to the example of her illustrious great-grandparents, Avrohom and Soro. Avrohom made a career of bringing men into the fold of belief, while his wife ministered separately to the women. Dinah sought to do the same. Thus, she went out not to observe the daughters of the land, but to peer inside them. She studied them to learn about their inner character and content, to determine which women might be drawn closer to a more spiritual existence. She certainly did not go out to parade herself and her beauty in front of the people of the region.
Dinah miscalculated, however. Chazal take “Every honorable princess dwelling within”
For this reason, Devorah praised Yael as “blessed beyond the women of the tent.”
Yet a crucial difference remains between Dinah and Yael. The latter had no choice. To save the Jewish army and nation, Sisera had to be stopped. There was no Plan B. Yael had one chance, and she exercised the option to save many lives. Dinah, on the other hand, had noble intentions – but far less compelling cause to act as she did. It is praiseworthy to bring appropriate non-Jewish souls to a place of greater connection to G-d. Yet, we do not tell people to commit even a small misdeed in order to prevent others from committing larger ones.
Dinah tried emulating her mother, but she sacrificed too much in trying. That set her up for failure.