Parshat Vayishlach 5775: The Message Behind Shechem’s “Desire for the Daughter of Yaakov” and Its Meaning for Us NOW

Shalom Friends;

This week, our Parshat HaShevua Vayishlach is being sponsored by R’ Barak and Honey Saffer of Ramat Beit Shemesh, dedicated in honor of the recent birth of their granddaughter Shayna bat Shimon Yona, may she grow in Torah and Mitzvot and have much Bracha V”Hatslocha.. To the Saffer family, many thanks for your sponsorship and continuing kindnesses through the years.

You can celebrate a Simcha — a birth, a Bar/Bat Mitzvah, a Chassuna or other Simcha event in your life, or commemorate a Yahrtzeit of a loved one, or for whatever other reason by sponsoring (or as the case may be, co-sponsoring) a Parshat HaShevua.

Please forward to your relatives and friends and encourage them to sponsor a Parshat HaShevua. And please be in contact with me with any questions, or for further details.

Best Regards,

Moshe Burt
olehchadash@yahoo. com
skype: mark.burt3


Parshat Vayishlach 5775: The Message Behind Shechem’s “Desire for the Daughter of Yaakov” and Its Meaning for Us NOW?

by Moshe Burt

After Yaakov’s confrontation with Eisev, he brings his family to Shechem in Cana’an.

Yaakov bought a field in Shechem and Torah relates a sequence of events (Sefer Breish’t, Perek 33, posuk 20 through Perek 34, posukim 1-4, 6-7):

“He [Yaakov] set up an altar there and he called it ‘G’d is the G’d of Israel.'”

“Now Dinah — the daughter of Leah, whom she had borne to Yaakov — went out to look over the daughters of the land. Shechem, son of Chamor the Hivvite, the prince of the land, saw her; he took her, and he lay with her, and violated her. He became deeply attached to Dinah, daughter of Yaakov; he loved the maiden and spoke to the maiden’s heart. So Shechem spoke to Chamor, his father saying, ‘Take me this girl for a wife.'”

Chamor, Shechem’s father, went out to Yaakov to speak to him. Yaakov’s sons arrived from the field, when they heard; the men were distressed. and were fired deeply with indignation, for he had committed an outrage… by lying with a daughter of Yaakov — and such a thing is not done.

Rashi notes on this last posuk (Perek 34, posuk 7):

“And such a thing is not done” To violate virgins; for the nations of the world restricted themselves from sexual immorality because of the flood. (cited from Breish’t Rabbah 80:6, “And such a thing is not done” implies a widely accepted restriction… One of the sins for which Hashem destroyed the world at the time of the flood was sexual immorality.)

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 [of Dinah by Shechem], 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. Shechem was 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 position 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 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 prerequisite 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 prospect 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 of 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 act in ways which de-legitimize us at every turn.

Perhaps we, the Klal Israel have become arrogant to our fellows, each sector disdainfully, deceitfully and disrespectfully alienating every other sector with their words. And perhaps, the problem is not only disdain for, deceit of and disrespect for our fellows, but a collective sense of collective self-concern, with notable exceptions which this author can attest to in Ramat Beit Shemesh, and a collective lack of Jewish national self-respect and self-esteem.

Shimon and Levi, with their circumcision rouse designed so that could destroy the Shechemites at the height of their pain and thus unable to defend themselves, seemingly acted out of indignance that another nation would dare commit such an abomination upon Yisrael, both upon an individual — Shechem’s violation of Dinah, and to plot the dilution and deprecation of Yisrael.

In light of the latest edition of Gaza War, which has evolved post-“ceasefire” into war against the Jewish people in Israel’s heartland: Tel Aviv, Yehudah and Shomron and in Yerushalayim, this author reasons that some of the same indignation and raised backbone which possessed Shimon and Levi out of Shechem’s violation of Dinah as well as the citing from Chazal above: “that whole world was created just for him” — for the Jewish people, would rise to the fore amongst our government and amongst Am Yisrael in our days in dealing with the violations of Israel by enemies seeking our destruction and eradication. 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, bimhayrah b’yamainu — speedily, in our time”, — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!!

Chodesh Tov and 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.