Parshat Vayishlach 5782: Moral Truth beneath Layers of Complicated Concerns?

Shalom Friends;

This week, our Parshat HaShevua Vayishlach is being sponsored by Tzvi and Shari Gherman and family of Ramat Beit Shemesh in honor of Vayishlach being Tzvi’s Bar Mitzvah Parsha. To the Gherman family, 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 a Yahrtzeit of a loved one, or for whatever other reason by 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
skype: mark.burt3

Parshat Vayishlach 5782: Moral Truth beneath Layers of Complicated Concerns?

By Moshe Burt

In past years, this author has discussed Yaakov’s fight with the moloch, his preparations for, and his confrontation with his estranged brother Eisev. This Parsha always seems to bring to mind that old Four Tops tune: “If you bite My neck, I’ll turn to Stone…”

Also, in past years, this author has discussed various dimensions of Shechem ben Chamor’s seduction and violation of Dina and his desire to inter-marry with Yaakov’s family, the deep indignation felt by Yaakov’s sons which led to the action of Shimon and Levi against Shechem and all of the men of the city of Shechem, as well as the subsequent directions taken by both Shevatim (Tribes).

In this year’s vort on Parshat Vayishlach, this author seeks to draw parallels between Shechem’s seduction of Dina, the actions of Shimon and Levi and observation of current events in our time.

Rabbi Shmuel Goldin provides a context in his sefer, “Unlocking the Torah Text”, Sefer Breish’t on our Parsha Vayishlach (page 194 which summarizes Sefer Breish’t, Perek 34, posukim 25-31):

On the third day following the mass circumcision, Yaakov’s sons, Shimon and Levi enter the city, and taking advantage of thee weakened state of the inhabitants, slaughter all of the males. They then lay waste to the entire city.

Yaakov criticizes his sons, claiming that their actions have made the family vulnerable to attack from the surrounding nations. Shimon and Levi respond: “Shall our sister be treated as a harlot?” (Rabbi Goldin citing Sefer Breish’t, Perek 34, posuk 31)

To this author’s understanding, Shimon and Levi were not only upholding the honor of their sister, their family and ultimately, the heritage in Judaism, but also the No’achide Laws which Hashem brought into being after the Mabul. Further, Shimon and Levi may well have anticipated Chamor’s scheme of inter-marriage in order to make his all the possessions and animals belonging to Yaakov and his sons.

Rabbi Goldin spells out these laws in his vort on Parshat No’ach (ibid, page 51-52):

The seven No’achide Laws are the following: do not steal, do not kill, do not eat the limb of a live animal, do not commit acts of sexual immorality, do not practice idolatry, do not blaspheme G’d, and establish courts of law. (Rabbi Goldin citing Talmud Bavli Sanhedrin 56a-b)

According to the Rabbis, Hashem would not have created the human race without simultaneously producing a moral code of behavior.

Rabbi Goldin continues by asking several questions regarding the actions of his two sons and discussing the commentaries’ struggles with the moral dimensions of Shimon’s and Levi’s action (pages 194-199)

Are Shimon and Levi morally justified when they avenge the assault upon their sister? Can the destruction of an entire city be condoned as a response to the crimes of its prince? ….Was Yaakov complicit in the planned deceit of the Shechemites? If so, why does he later criticize his sons Shimon and Levi? If not, how could he [Yaakov] have possibly agreed to a plan that would have allowed for the assimilation of his family into Shechemite society? Yaakov only reprimands Shimon and Levi for making their family vulnerable to attack. Did Yaakov object to his sons’ actions on moral grounds as well?

….The commentators struggle with the moral dimensions of this difficult episode. The Rambam… find[s] legal grounds to justify both the deceit of the citizens of Shechem and the violent actions of Shimon and Levi.

The nations of the world, says the Rambam, are responsible to observe the seven Noachide laws upon pain of death.

Dina’s assailant clearly transgressed the Noachide law that prohibits abduction [i.e. sexual immorality]. The entire society of Shechem, however, incurred guilt as well. One of the seven Noachide laws mandates the establishment of courts of law…. obligates all… [other] societies to establish judicial systems to enforce the entire Noachide code. When the citizens of Shechem failed to maintain this legal standard by bringing the prince to justice, they, themselves, became liable to the death penalty. Shimon and Levi were, therefore, justified in exacting punishment upon the city. (Rav Goldin citing Rambam, Mishne Torah, Hilchot Melachim 9:14)

The Ramban objects to the Rambam’s interpretation of the Noachide code on two… levels. Firstly…, the requirement to establish courts of law refers to monetary issues and not to enforcement of the other Noachide laws. Secondly, one is guilty of a capital crime under the Noachide code only if an action is actually committed…. Although Shechem himself was certainly guilty of a punishable offense under the Noachide code, in this instance the citizens of the city were not.

The population of the city… was certainly guilty of other capital crimes unrelated to the event before us, such as idolatry and sexual immorality. Yaakov [if one presumes that he knew his sons’ plans to put all men of Shechem to death] and his sons had no legal right to exact punishment [on the population of Shechem] for those crimes. (Rav Goldin citing Ramban on Sefer Breish’t, Perek 34, posuk 13)

Rav Goldin then writes, as this author understands and attributed to the Ramban, that when Yaakov’s sons demanded that all the males in Shechem be circumcised in exchange for the family’s acquiescence to Shechem’s marrying Dinah, they truly believed that the Shechemites would not agree, thus nullifying the agreement, and that Dina would be returned unharmed. The Ramban further understands that Yaakov’s understanding of his son’s plans was, that if by some chance the Shechemites agreed to to mass circumcision, Yaakov’s sons would enter the city of Shechem on the third day, while the men were in pain and weakened, and free their sister without further violence.

Rav Goldin writes citing the Ramban (ibid):

Shimon and Levi, however, took matters into their own hands, violently avenged their sister’s honor and incurred their father’s reprimand. (This and the above paragraph: Rav Goldin citing Ramban on Sefer Breish’t, Perek 34, posuk 13)

Rav Golden writes further that other commentators suggest various takes on Shimon’s and Levi’s actions, such as; that “…on the third day, when they [the Shechemites] were in pain” refers not to the pain of the circumcisions, but to remorse over their agreement with Yaakov’s family. Shimon and Levi recognized the Shechemites’ change of mind and acted preemptively. (Rav Goldin citing Da’at Zekeinim, Miba’alei Hatosafot, Sefer Breish’t, Perek 34, posuk 25)

Another commentator’s take, which builds on a Midrashic source (Rav Goldin citing Pesikta Zutrata, Sefer Breish’t, Perek 34, posuk 22-23) indicates on the words of Chamor in convincing the Shechemites to undergo circumcision: “Their [Yaakov and his family’s] livestock, their possessions and all of their animals, will they not be ours?” (Sefer Breish’t, Perek 34, posuk 23)

Rabbi Goldin concludes (ibid, page 199):

Violence is neither totally condoned nor totally condemned; some acts are neither totally right nor totally wrong. Issues of good and evil are presented with all of their complexity in the Torah text. We are reminded that moral truth often lies beneath layers and layers of complicated contextual concerns.

We observe events in the United States such as the government mandating of educating, or is that rather indoctrinating and brainwashing youth(?) to such concepts as bogus “critical race theory,” “gender neutrality,” “indigenous people day” — all designed to divide and conquer the masses in order for one group to maintain corruptive power over the rest of that nation.

And we wonder if Israel is headed down a similar path. Consider the recent statements by current prime minister Naftali Bennett of the five knesset member Yamina party which has coalesced with the Israeli left and Mansour Abbas’ of the United Arab List, aka the Moslem Brotherhood:

“In Israel there are basically three political vectors: the national force, which I’d absolutely call right-wing; the globalist-humanist approach, which I’d basically call the Left, and the religious: hareidim and the Orthodox. In practice, we need all three vectors,” while adding that he believes hareidi political power should be diminished.

“We are a Jewish state, and I’m happy that there are hareidim, but we need to limit their political influence. And I wouldn’t want an Israel without a left-wing,” Bennett continued.

Sorry to say that what we see in the United States, and very possibly here, is NOT mere politics which many seek to avoid like the plague. It is approaching dictatorial! Consider what seems beneath Bennett’s quotes. Bennett, despite that microcosmic kippa on the very edge of the back of his skull, seems to have totally gone radical left. We are the nation of the Jews, not some normal piece of Western real estate where laws, the constitution, the bill of rights and constitutional amendments of the founders are disdained and don’t seem to matter anymore. The ideal of the State of Israel, L’Chatchila (the way things ought to be be) is a state governed by Halachic law.

As such, this leftist coalition has opted to tread all over Halacha with nary a mention ever of Hashem. In a Halachic state, there is no need for Observant Jews to wield political power. As this author views it, the whole reason for Hareidi parties, as with a Religious Zionist party in the context of successive governments since 1948, is to maintain a sense of Halacha and Mesorah in the fabric of the nation, while the left’s aim is to trample and destroy same, making Israel a total secular state of all of its peoples with abortion, same-genderism and a copy of western indoctrination as well disdain for, and elimination of our Halachic and Mesorah foundations. Not mentioned here are the numerous other ways this coalition is attempting to neuter the nation on the ground, militarily and diplomatically.

In a real sense, this current slap-dash leftist coalition Israel government attempts to seduce the Jews of Israel, just as Shechem seduced and violated Dina. Observant Torah Jews of all stripes must not permit the secular left to succeed.

May we, the B’nei 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 and that the thrice expelled families of Amona be restored to their rebuilt homes, at government expense; both due to alt-leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized Yassamnik gunpoint. Baruch Hashem that our dear brother Jonathan Pollard is now free of his parole and restrictions and that he and his ill wife Esther Yocheved bat Rayzl Bracha are finally home in Eretz Yisrael. May the MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem — as with the return in April, 2019, via Russia, of the remains of Zachariah Baumel, as should the remains of the two chayalim from the Gaza War of seven years ago. 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 prevent Chas V’Challila the handing of Jewish land over to anyone, let alone to enemies sworn to Israel’s and Judaism’s destruction and eradication. And may we soon and finally see the total end to the Communist Chinese corona virus pandemic and all like viruses. May we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nei 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 Al’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bimhayrah b’yamainu — speedily, in our time”, — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!!

Good Shabbos!
Moshe Burt is an Oleh, writer and commentator on news and events in Eretz Yisrael. He is the founder and director of The Sefer Torah Recycling Network and lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh.