On Shabbat morning our rabbi delivered an interesting drasha (sermon) on the story of the rape of Dinah and the revenge of her brothers.
Dinah was the only daughter of the patriarch Jacob, father of twelve sons. One day, she left her home and wandered about the pathways of Shechem (today’s Nablus) in search of other young girls to befriend. She was seen by Hamor, a prince of the city. He approached her, raped her, and fell in love with her seeking a marriage.
He implored his father to go to speak to Jacob asking for a marriage between his son and Jacob’s daughter. The “deal” inferred that Jacob’s clan could live among the people of Shechem, intermarry with them, and trade with them.
When Dinah’s brothers returned to their home they overheard the conversation between the two fathers. They objected to the marriage on the grounds that Hebrew males were circumcised while the men of Shechem were not, making a marriage on Hebrew religious terms unacceptable.
But the wily brothers had a suggestion. If Prince Hamor and all the males of his fiefdom would agree to be circumcised, there would be no further objection to the marriage of Dinah to Prince Hamor.
The prince accepted the proposal and informed all the men of his realm that they would be required to be circumcised.
In order to avoid their objection, the prince offered the thought that if the Hebrews could live among them and intermarry with them, their herds and cattle and property would enrich his people. The men agreed and were circumcised.
But on the third day following their circumcision when they lay in their tents, weak and in pain, two of Dinah’s brothers, Shimon and Levi, took their sister Dinah from Prince Hamor and proceeded with their swords to slaughter all the weak circumcised males.
Their father Jacob was distraught. “We gave our word to them that we would accept the marriage if the prince and the males agreed to be circumcised. Now you have broken our word. What will the nations think of us?”
Our rabbi, quoting from various rabbinic scholarly opinions, justified the killings on the grounds that rape was an illegal crime, also included in the seven Noahide laws.
But when a non-Hebrew reads the story he immediately concludes that the word and promise of a Hebrew (Jew) cannot be trusted.
It is clearly a story of shameful deceit on the part of the two brothers, sons of Jacob, whose name was changed by God to Israel.
Following the rabbi’s remarks the prayers continued and exactly when the Aleinu concluded, suddenly the sirens went off causing panic as the hundreds of worshippers ran and pushed their way to the exit doors.
No one understood the reason for the siren blasts. One man jokingly said “it must be the Kiddush cholent burning”.
After some time we were permitted to re-enter the synagogue and we made our way to the hall where a kiddush luncheon had been prepared.
Happily, the cholent had not burned and the combination of beef, potatoes, kidney beans and barley warmed our inner souls and we gobbled it up, giving thanks to God that no damages had occurred.
We still do not know the reason for the frightening sirens blasting.
But I whispered to the rabbi… “it must be the revenge of the men of Shechem”.