Rachel Sharansky Danziger

For Dinah’s honor

The patriarch Jacob stays silent in the face of his daughter's rape. It is his sons who rally to seek retribution. What do they know that he doesn't? (Vayishlach)
The abduction of Dinah, Giuliano di Piero di Simone Bugiardini ca. 1523.
The abduction of Dinah, Giuliano di Piero di Simone Bugiardini ca. 1523.

And Dinah the daughter of Leah, whom she had borne unto Jacob, went out to see the daughters of the land. And Shechem the son of Hamor the Hivite, the prince of the land, saw her; and he took her, and lay with her, and humbled her. (Genesis 34:1-2)

The sons of Jacob came upon the slain, and spoiled the city, because they had defiled their sister. (Genesis 34:27)

* * *

A brother and a sister play, and their shared hours form a landscape.

A place inside them, rich with hills of memories, with the paths of games past, with the little caves of “do you remember when you told me this, and I did that?” Trees they climbed together, fights they fought and how those fights had changed them, little envies — all still echo there, within them. All those times of pain. All those times of joy.

Then they grow up, and life means different things for them — the world of men for him, for her — her mother’s tent. But this internal landscape — who could ever lose it? Shared childhood had swept, like wind and rain, across their inner worlds, and formed them. And now those views, those shapes, remain.

So is it any wonder, really, that Dinah’s brothers act when her father won’t? (Genesis 34)

Jacob is silent. He has lived through many confrontations, by now. He learned to be wily when needed, servile when servility works better — he knows how to fight till dawn, and he knows how to bow seven times, and he knows how to wrap his hands in one identity and speak another.

He knows the prices of each method, too.

His inner landscape is a treasure trove of tactics, and perhaps he wanders through it in his silence, pondering which one to use. Which of his past experiences should guide him? Which old lesson should he apply once more?

But his sons — they don’t have his many journeys to consult with, or get lost in. They have their childhood alive within them, and a landscape Dinah shares.

“Should our sister be treated like a whore,” they tell their father when he rebukes them, citing the strategic weaknesses of their method.

Our sister, they call her.


They are hers, and she is theirs.

And so the brothers come together to defend the honor of the girl who shares their heartscape, their sister, their Dinah.

About the Author
Rachel is a Jerusalem-born writer and educator who's in love with her city's vibrant human scene. She writes about Judaism, history, and life in Israel for the Times of Israel and other online venues, and explores storytelling in the Hebrew bible as a teacher in Matan, Maayan, Torah in Motion, and Pardes.
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