Vayeitzei: A Time for War

Who wants to hear something scary?  Last Friday, my oldest daughter turned Bas Mitzvah.  How strange is that?  A few hours before she officially turned twelve, I tried to get her to do a few last minute sins: ”I know you really want to hit me . . . come on . . . do it!  If you do it now, you can get away with it, but in a few hours . . . . Or how about a cheeseburger . . . you want to eat a yummy cheeseburger?”  To which she responded, “What’s a cheeseburger?”




Rav Gedalia Schorr writes that Yaakov had to go through four troubled periods in his life: The long-term episode with Eisav, the time he spent in exile with Lavan, the episode with Dina, and losing Yosef for so many years.  Each one of these corresponds to one of the exiles that the Jewish nation has endured.


In this week’s parsha, we learn about the episode with Dina, who was taken by force by Shechem, who fell in love with her, and wished to marry her.  When he and his father went to receive permission from Yaakov to marry her (they obviously didn’t get the “get her father’s permission first” bit), Yaakov remained silent.  When Dina’s brothers learned of what happened, they were angered greatly.  They informed Shechem and his father that there is no way they can allow a marriage to take place with people who do not have a bris.  If they want to marry Dina and others, they, and their entire town will have to get a bris, to which they agreed!  On the third day, when everybody was in pain, Shimon and Levi went in, and killed every man.  Upon hearing this, Yaakov became angry about what Shimon and Levi did, reminding them that they are but a small "nation" and can easily be wiped out by the Cannanim.  To this, Simon and Levi responded, “Should our sister be treated like a harlot?”


According to Rav Schorr, this episode corresponds to the Greek Exile and Chanukkah.  Unlike the other exiles, this one took place completely in Eretz Yisroel.  And just like Chanukkah, this episode ended with the creation of an altar.  There are other similarities.  The Greeks loved culture and knowledge.  The Torah refers to Yavan (Greece) as beauty, because, there is a certain beauty about them.  Today’s Western Civilization is built on Greek thinking (much more than Christian-Judeo beliefs).  The Greeks were like The Borg (ten points to all nerds who understood that), who loved to learn about others and incorporate their philosophies into one.


Shechem and his father were not out to kill Yaakov.  The opposite.  We see that Shechem fell in love with Yaakov’s daughter.  They even went further and announced that they wish to marry into Yaakov’s family to create one nation.  They and the Greeks, unlike most of our enemies, were not out to physically kill off the Jewish nation.  They truly wished to take the best of both cultures and bring them together.


However, there is another similarity between Shechem and Greece.  The Greeks made a nice law that ravaged the Jewish nation.  Any woman who planned to get married had to be together with the local Greek official.  Like Shechem, there was an attempt to destroy the kedusha (holiness) of the Jewish people.  Take first, marry later.


There are many questions and answers to the entire episode.  Why was Yaakov silent when he first heard of what happened to Dina.  Why was he silent when his sons were tricking Shechem?  And why did he speak up and complain against Shimon and Levi after they killed everybody?


We don’t have time to go into everything in depth.  However, Rav Yaakov Kaminetsky writes that Yaakov was under the impression that Shimon and Levi were planning on going in on the third day, and rescuing Dina.  He was not expecting them to kill off Shechem and his people.  As he said, he was worried about what would be if the Cannanim were to attack to avenge Shechem.  To this, Shimon and Levi responded, “Should our sister be treated like a harlot?”  And what did Yaakov respond?  He was silent.  Rav Kaminetsky says that we can see that Yaakov came to agree in the end.  When it comes to the purity of the Jewish people, one MUST take a stand, no matter what the odds.


Rav Yaakov Leonard brings two proofs to side with this.


At the end of his life, Yaakov gave all of his children brachos.  To Shimon and Levi, he gives them a bit of harshness, and says that they should be kept separate from each other, spread out throughout the nation, serving as teachers and judges.  Rashi has two explanations.  One of them, he says, is that Yaakov was reminding them that this characteristic that they have could be dangerous if not used properly.  However, it is still a vital characteristic to have.  And that is why they are to be the teachers of the Jewish nation.


Another proof, comes from the Midrash, where Yehudis, the daughter of Mattisyahu HaKohen, announces that she plans on getting married.  Right before being taken away to the Greek official, she gives a stirring speech , telling the Jewish people that they need to learn from Shimon and Levi “the brothers of Dina."


There is a time for peace and a time for war.


It’s not up to us, thankfully, to determine when is the time for what.  That is why we have people bigger than we are to make such decisions.  However, there are times, like Chanukkah, when our spiritual center is being attacked.  And during those times, as politically incorrect as it is, sometimes, one must stand up and take a stand.  Had we been living during the times of Chanukkah, most of us would have probably gone against the Maccabees, “Why do they need to rock the boat?  Why do they need to be SOOO Ultra-Orthodox?  Why can’t they just let things go?”  An honest conversation with oneself will help a person determine his position.  However, Chanukkah is a time when we don’t say such things.  We stand up and we say, “Until here and no further!”


Have a wonderful Shabbos!


Michael Winner