Jacob “went out” and Dinah “went out.”
What did Jacob receive before he went out?
Helpful instructions from his mother and father; an encouraging dream from God; a divine promise of aid.
“Remember, I am with you.” (Genesis 28:15)
What did Dinah receive before she went out?
* * *
When you go out, you sometimes end up in surprising places.
Jacob was surprised and Dinah was surprised.
Jacob was surprised in the morning: “There was Leah!” (Genesis 29:25). Dinah was surprised when she was suddenly abducted: “Shechem son of Hamor the Hivite, chief of the country, saw her, and took her.” (Genesis 34:2)
Both Jacob and Dinah envisioned very different lives for themselves; lives where the continuation of the story flows naturally out of its beginning. Lives where the future is predictable and known. Lives where they had choices.
But Laban and Shechem had different ideas, and they snatched Jacob and Dinah’s right to write the rest of their own story.
* * *
So Jacob was surprised and Dinah was surprised, but what happened to their stories afterwards?
What did Jacob receive after he was surprised?
The opportunity to gain Rachel, whom he wanted from the get-go; the opportunity to learn some much-needed craftiness; another page to write another chapter of his story onto.
What did Dinah receive after she was surprised?
* * *
Somewhere between Jacob’s fields and tents, men are negotiating over Dinah’s future. And what a negotiation it is! How crafty the parties, how diplomatic the efforts! Hamor is there, trying to repackage his son’s actions and legitimize them post-facto, scheming to swallow Jacob’s family and fortune into the bargain as well. Simeon and Levi are there, feigning a willingness to talk even as they’re planning an attack. Even Laban is there in spirit, in this moment of deception, where hidden intentions dwell within clever words.
But where is Jacob?
Jacob is silent.
Is he silent because he’s so shocked? Because his daughter was abducted and his world turned upside down?
Is he silent because he trusts the youth to manage the situation?
Is he silent because he feels guilty, since he went out with advice and dreams and divine promises to aid him, but failed to supply his daughter with such things when she went out?
Or maybe he is silent out of a sense solidarity. Because Dinah, who went out and was surprised, isn’t given the opportunity to write the next part of her story. There’s nothing left for her but silence.
She never says a word.
* * *
On Simchat Torah, we were all surprised.
We all watched the continuation of our story snatched out of our hands.
We all live within the space between Vayishlach’s field and Jacob’s tent now. We’re all negotiating even as we want to fight, speaking with our enemies even as we dream of crushing them. We all worry about the world’s response (“You have brought trouble on me, making me odious among the inhabitants of the land!”) but also chafe against such strictures, because “should our sister be treated like a whore?” (Genesis 34:31)
Should our state be made into a victim?
In this story, our story, we are all Jacob and Simeon and Levi, all at once.
But, and this is important, we are not Dinah.
We won’t be silenced, and we won’t be quiet, and we won’t let anyone write the end of our own story for us.
Like Rimon Kirsht Buchshtav, who refused to participate in the bizarre charade that Hamas and the Red Cross tried to force on her in the moment of her release from captivity, we will not accept our enemies script. “No one will touch us now,” Rimon said when they told her to shake hands and smile. “And we will leave here now, with our heads held high.” Like Rimon, we will not accept the roles our enemies assign to us. We will write our own story, with our hands and our voice.
* * *
Jacob went out, and Dinah went out, and Rimon went out with her head held high, and we will all keep going, standing tall like her.