Parshat Vayishlach 5774: The Message Behind Shechem’s “Desire for the Daughter of Yaakov”, and Its Meaning for Us?

Shalom Friends;

This week, our Parshat HaShevua is being sponsored by Tzvi and Shari Gherman of Ramat Beit Shemesh to commemorate Tzvi’s Bar Mitzvah parsha — Vayishlach. To Tzvi and Shari Gherman and their famiily, many thanks for your sponsorship and your continued kindnesses.

You can celebrate a Simcha — a birth, a Bar/Bat Mitzvah, a Chassuna or other Simcha event in your life, or commemorate Yahrtzeit of a loved one, or for whatever other reason by sponsoring a Parshat HaShevua.

Please be in contact with me with any questions, or for further details.

Best Regards,

Moshe Burt
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Parshat Vayishlach 5774: The Message Behind Shechem’s “Desire for the Daughter of Yaakov”, and Its Meaning for Us?

by Moshe Burt

After Yaakov’s confrontation with Eisev, he brings his family to Shechem in Cana’an. Sefer Shem Mishmuel (Shem Mishmuel, Rabbi Zvi Belovski, Parsha Vayishlach, pages 57-60) describes Torah’s account of the capture and violation of Yaakov’s daughter Dinah by Shechem ben Chamor:

…Chamor… was the ruler of the area. After the rape, Shechem and Chamor negotiated with Yaakov’s family for Shechem’s right to marry Dinah. The condition of acceptance was that Shechem and all of his male townsfolk had to circumcise themselves. Shechemwas only too eager to carry out the operation

“…because he desired the daughter of Yaakov, although he was the most honored of all of his father’s household.”

Shem Mishmuel goes on to note that Dinah’s name is not mentioned here, but is referred to as “the daughter of Yaakov,” indicating that Shechem wanted Dinah, not simply for his physical desires, but because she was Yaakov’s daughter!

Shem Mishmuel goes on to say:

Shechem wanted to be associated with Yaakov and his family, to be part of Yaakov’s… world. Indeed, Shechem actually means “segment” or “portion”…

We could say that Shechem wanted a portion in Yaakov’s life; he wanted not just Dinah, but also to share… [Yaakov’s] greatness. Indeed, this is the opposite of the generally correct postion to be taken by a potential convert. The Gemara informs us that the convert should feel that he is privileged to join the Jewish people, even though he is unworthy. (Yevamos 47a) Instead, Shechem felt that he deserved a place within Yaakov’s family.

…Every word in Hebrew is not just a label but describes the essence of it’s subject, the word shechem meaning “segment”
or “portion,” describes the person Shechem and also the place…. Each person in Shechem wanted his own portion in life — to be significant and not just a part of a larger entity. Shechem was a place which influenced its dwellers and those who came through it to feel that they themselves were important and worthy.

This trait is one of tremendous power; it can be the greatest or the worst of all attributes. On the the good side, the individual is exhorted by Chazal to consider that the whole world was created just for him, and that by performing one mitzvah one can favorably tip the balance toward oneself and bring merit to the whole world.

The converse, however, can be very destructive. A person who misuses this characteristic becomes totally self-oriented…. and becomes an arrogant person. He is so self-assured that he is simply unable to listen to criticism. He becomes like Eisev — completely beyond any rebuke or correction.

Despite the potentially destructive nature of the Shechemite character trait, every person needs a little of it to succeed. It
is actually the source of the drive to achieve anything in the face of adversity. It engenders the feeling that one has important things to achieve, and that one will stand up for those aims and execute them, come what may. Too much self-effacement at the start of a project will doom it to failure. One needs to feel strong and independent to commence any activity. This Shechemite middah is a prerquisite for any person beginning any project of significance. However, … the feeling of personal empowerment and independence must be controlled to avoid going to the opposite extreme…. If this Shechemite trait is overemphasized it may overpower the entire project, ruining its chances of success and destroying its instigators

Shem Mishmuel now applies the trait of Shechem to the B’nai Yisrael entering Eretz Yisrael — first stop: Shechem:

…Although Hashem would be with them at every step, it was an extremely daunting, and probably terrifying pospect to take a new and unfamiliar land. They needed a tremendous boost of strength and confidence to launch their task with the correct mind-set. This was the power os Shechem. As they began the conquest of Eretz Yisrael, …Shechem… gave them the boost of confidence they surely needed at this historical moment.

But, there are dangers inherent in this step. How were Klal Yisrael to avoid falling into the trap of arrogance and unreasonable self-confidence? …Avraham and Yaakov both first visited Shechem when they entered Eretz Yisrael…. Both Avraham and Yaakov realized the importance of the Shechem character trait, they knew that it was essential to temper it with a feeling of personal insignificance. This ensured that they could use the Shechem element when necessary but still
retain a proper perspective on life and on their own worth. We can feel sure that they passed on this ability to their descendants, the Klal as a whole, who were able to derive inspiration from Shechem as they entered the land without losing the balance between self-confidence and arrogance.

Perhaps, in our time, we suffer — our governance. politicians, and perhaps our populace as well — from a lack of balance of
the Shechem character trait — not the extreme of arrogance, but a disproportionate degree of self-effacement, timidity regarding OUR LAND — Eretz Yisrael. And so, instead of confidently, and with Emunah, asserting our Divine legacy and possession of OUR LAND, our governance and political leaders have lost their handle on why we are here and delegitimize us at every turn.

And we, the Klal Israel have, perhaps, become arrogant to our fellows, each sector disdainfully, deceitfully and disrespectfully
alienating every other sector with their words. Something to consider??

May we, the B’nai Yisrael be zocha that our brethren — the refugee families from Gush Katif be permanently settled and be made totally whole — be totally restituted for all that was stolen from them at leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized gunpoint, that our dear brethren Jonathan Pollard and Sholom Rubashkin, as well as the MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem. May we have the courage and strength to stand up and physically prevent the possibility of Chas V’Challila any future eviction of Jews from their homes and the handing of Jewish land over to anyone, let alone to enemies sworn to Israel’s and Judaism’s destruction and eradication. May we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nai Yisrael as a Unique people — an Am Segula, not to be reckoned with as with “the nations” and may we be zocha to see the Moshiach, the Ge’ula Shlaima, as Dov Shurin sings; “Ki Karov Yom Hashem V’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bim hay v’yameinu — speedily, in our time”, — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!!

Good Shabbos!

Moshe Burt, an Oleh, is a commentator on news and events in Israel and Founder and Director of The Sefer Torah Recycling Network. He lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh.