Rashi in last week’s parsha quotes from Midrash that Rachel’s
death during childbirth was a direct result of Ya’akov’s curse that whoever took
the terafim of Lavan should die.
Ezra (31:32) is very critical of this idea.
He points to the fact that we are told early in Sefer Shmuel that the
wife of Pinchas, Eli’s daughter-in-law, died in childbirth when the aron was
taken by the Plishtim. Ibn Ezra challenges us: if we are going to point to Ya'akov's curse as the cause
of Rachel’s death, whose curse do we
point to as the cause of Eli’s daughter-in-law’s death?
Maharal comes to Rashi’s rescue with a yesod in how we look
at the Avos/ Imahos.
You can’t compare,
writes the Maharal, a story in Nach with a story about the Imahos.
We all do enough wrong things and our lives
are so far from the ideal that we should probably wonder why anything goes right for us,
not why things go wrong.
Nach may have lived far more perfect lives than ours, but even they did not
reach the level of the Avos and Imahos. If something bad happened, its a fair assumption that somewhere along the way some wrong was done. The same assumption cannot be made about the Avos or Imahos. To the contrary: our baseline assumption, unless we know otherwise, must be that the Avos and Imahos were models of perfection, free from sin.
If we read that something tragic happened to
Rachel Imeinu, something that deviated from perfection, it demands an
Maharal echoes the same idea in Parshas VaYishlach.
Rashi tells us that because Ya’akov hid Dinah
in a box away from Eisav, he suffered her being abducted by Shechem (why Dinah
should suffer because Ya’akov did something wrong is a good question, but not
The story of Dinah’s
abduction demands a reason – it cannot be a capricious event that just “happened”
to Ya’akov Avinu because things just don’t “happen” to the Avos by chance or
stroke of bad luck.
If there is a
deviation from normal life, it means there was an abnormal deviation or flaw of character
that caused events to turn out that way.
The Maharal obviously is far to the opposite extreme of the
modern trend of trying to humanize the Avos and Imahos and attribute to them human
frailties that we all suffer.
Since I mentioned the episode with Dinah, I want to just discuss
one point with respect to her responsibility for what happened.
Rashi comments on “VaTeitzei Dinah bas Leah
” (34:1) that
Dinah is connected specifically with her mother Leah because Dinah mimicked Leah’s
Just as Leah ran out to greet
Ya’akov, so too, Dinah ran out into the world to see other young ladies.
The lesson some choose to learn from here is
that Dinah was guilty of straying outside the home to see what was going on in
the outside world – a lack of tzeniyus – and as a result she got what was coming
Many well meaning Moros end the
lesson at this point with the charge, “Let that be a lesson to you young
I doubt that those teaching this lesson intend to convey
that rape or abduction is the fault of the victim, but that does seem to be the
subtext of the message.
counter that of course the attacker is at fault, but had the victim not been
outside, not been dressed in a certain way, not been hanging out in certain
places, things might have turned out differently.
I don’t know if that is a good enough answer (see my wife's post here
In light of the Maharal, something else should be bothering
Dinah’s behavior was, according
to Rashi, a reflection of Leah’s behavior.
If Dinah was at fault in going out, then it means that Leah was at fault
Not only are we being critical
of one of the Imahos (and Dinah), but we are doing so for behavior which G-d
rewarded: as a result of Leah’s going out and showing her desire to be with Ya’akov she was blessed with Yisachar!
Look at the Chasam Sofer’s reaction
: “Chalilah v’chalilah she'yazkir Leah
hatzadekes l’genai… Rachmana nitzlan m’hai da’ata! …Mevu’ar u’mefursam she’haysa yetziya kodesh
l’Hashem v’kacha yetzi’as bitah
forbid that we should attribute moral failing to the righteous Leah – may G-d protect
us from such ideas!
Just as it is
obvious and well known that Leah’s going out was for a holy reason, so too was
Dinah’s going out.
I won’t hide from you that if you read the rest of the Ch”S
he does assign some blame to Dinah.
However, he does not portray her as some wayward child who was looking for
an escape – i.e. a modern American teenager.
That’s not how to view the Imahos or Dinah.
One can have the purest intentions l’shem shamayim, as Dinah did, and
The Lubavitcher Rebbe goes a step further. As mentioned earlier, Rashi tells us that Dinah’s
abduction is a punishment to Ya’akov for his having hid her in a box to protect
her from Eisav. The implication is that
he should have allowed Dinah to marry Eisav, as she could have inspired his
teshuvah. We see from here the
tremendous power Dinah had to be makareiv others, even an Eisav. Her going out to see the “bnos ha’aretz”
could and should be interpreted as a kiruv mission, similar to the way Sarah
and Avraham ran outreach programs. Rashi
draws our attention to the parallel between Dinah and Leah’s behavior not to
attribute blame – Rashi already told us that Ya’akov himself, not Dinah, was the one who deserved
blame for placing Dinah in a box -- but rather to stress the positive in Dinah’s
actions, that just as Leah went out with the purest motives l’shem shamayim for
a positive end, so too did her daughter Dinah.
When read in that light, the moral of the story is not never to leave home because of the risks involved or the lack of tzeniyus in doing so, but to the contrary, to utilize one's ability for kiruv and outreach. The moral failing in the story belongs to Ya'akov for witholding Dinah from Eisav and restricting her ability to make more of a difference in the world.