What should be our response to hearing that someone was violated?
When Dina, daughter of Yaakov was assaulted and taken hostage by Shechem, the sons of Yaakov were away. Yaakov waited until their return before responding. Why did he wait for them?
Chamor, father of Shechem, appeared before Yaakov and his sons. He presented a proposal that Dina would remain with Shechem and the two nations could blend in marriage. The sons of Yaakov responded that circumcision of all of the males would be required, a condition to which Chamor and Shechem readily agreed. It seemed that Yaakov was fine with the arrangement as he didn’t take issue with it.
A number of questions come to mind when considering Yaakov’s response. Certainly, it is hard to understand how it could be acceptable to Yaakov that members of Klal Yisrael join in marriage with another nation.
Yaakov expressed his disapproval after Shimon and Levi decimated Shechem, “You have discomposed me, making me odious among the inhabitants of the land.” What had he envisioned? What did he think was going to happen after the men were circumcised?
Yaakov went along with the plan. His expectation was that in their weakened state following circumcision, the family could rescue Dina. He did not envision that his sons would do more than what had been laid out. When he expressed his dismay to Shimon and Levi, they said, “Should he treat our sister like a harlot?” Their response reflected a deep concern and regard for their sister. Yaakov did not say a word after that because he was impressed by their devotion.
Yaakov knew who he was dealing with when negotiations were called for. He knew that Chamor and Shechem would not release their hostage. Yaakov was known as a person whose essence was truth and could not propose a scheme which was in any way deceitful. However, his children, Shimon and Levi, could make the proposal. It was acceptable to do, because there was no other way that they could secure their sister’s release. A person has to be prepared to be cunning with those who are not trustworthy.
Before Yaakov’s passing, he blessed his children. He indicated that due to the wrath that they demonstrated, Shimon and Levi would be dispersed. Teachers of young children would be from the tribe of Shimon. Descendants of Levi would be amongst the people, as the Levi’im would gather their tithe. Is it reasonable that people of such character, whose wrath he declared to have made him odious, would be chosen to teach and lead? If their actions were deserving of punishment, how does being leaders and teachers fit the bill?
Having such depth of love was commendable and made them worthy to have leadership roles. It was that characteristic that he felt would make them suited to be educators. It was not a punishment. Some people evaluate a situation of violation and being taken hostage as unfortunate. When they feel that nothing can be done, they come to terms with it and leave it as is. Shimon and Levi said that what occurred was intolerable. They felt the pain and therefore they were compelled to remove the suffering of their sister and protect her dignity and honor. They would not simply stand by and accept the circumstances.
Levi’s and Shimon’s zealousness carried through the generations. However, there is a noteworthy contrast between their descendants. Zimri, a descendant of Shimon, defied Moshe Rabeinu and committed an act of immorality at Ba’al Peor. Pinchas, a descendant of Levi, boldly slew him. Additionally, the tribe of Levi rose to overcome the worshippers of the Golden Calf. What made the tribe of Levi able to use their character in a positive manner?
Both tribes had devotion. Both had zealousness. Yet, there was one special ingredient that made the tribe of Levi who they were. Even when Klal Yisrael were slaves in Egypt, the tribe of Levi was given the latitude to study Torah. They continued their studies through the generations. Their zealousness never dimmed and it was always linked to Torah.
When outrage is called for, is our response governed by emotion, instinct or Torah directive?
Rabbi Hershel D. Becker
 Vayishlach 34:30
 Vayishlach 34:31
 Shmuel 2 22:27
 Rashi Vayechi 49:7
 Pinchas 25:14
 Balak 25:7; Pinchas 25:11
 Ki Sisa 32:26-28
 Emes L’Yaakov Vayishlach 34:13; Vayechi 49:7